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Super Pumped (with Brian Koppelman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Super Pumped (with Brian Koppelman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Tue, 22 Feb 2022 03:15

We sit down with two of the most talented and respected people in Hollywood — Brian Koppelman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt — to talk about the process of adapting Mike Issac’s story of Uber, “Super Pumped”, into their new Showtime series. To say this was a thrill for us is a MASSIVE understatement. Huge thank yous to Brian, Joe and Showtime for making it happen!

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  • Thanks to the Solana Foundation for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. Solana is the world’s most performant blockchain, the BEST place for developers to build Web3 applications, and of course very near & dear to the Acquired community’s heart. You get in touch with them at , and with Phantom at , and just tell them that Ben and David sent you!
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I think you both know enough about a choir that I don't need to go into the general stick and spiel right on I love it I'm so honored that you guys have listened it makes my day thank you that's why we said yes welcome to this special episode of acquired the podcast about great technology companies and the stories and playbooks behind them I'm Ben Gilbert and I'm the co-founder and managing director of Seattle based Pioneer Square Labs and our venture fund PSL Ventures and I'm David Rosenthal and I'm an angel investor based in San Francisco and we are your hosts David I feel like today is the natural culmination of a journey we started in May of 2019 when we did our uber episode on the day of their IPO God it feels like another lifetime ago but it was only two and a half years ago well for listeners who don't know the events of you know uber leading all the way up through their IPO and the implosion around that and the just insane story that all of that was is coming out as a showtime series on February 27th called super pumped I have to say it's a little bit surreal the world that we live in a venture in startups as we will talk about on this episode becoming part of entertainment and pop culture like that and even more surreal that this is made by Brian coppilleman and Joe Gordon levy there's no world that I would have imagined we would find ourselves here no and on top of that there is no world that I would have thought we would have found ourselves in where there are guests on acquired to talk about it and so we're ludicrously fortunate today for that to be the case and for those who don't know Brian is one of the three executive producers writers and showrunners for super pumped you probably also know his work from billions and from rounders which is my all time favorite poker movie that I watched about a hundred times in high school in college when I was playing a lot of Texas hold on Brian's work over the decades is just awesome we're just lucky to have him making stuff out in the world Joe as many of you already know stars in super pumped playing Travis Kalanick or tk of course you know his previous work to inception looper recently mr. korman many other great movies Joe is actually a founder himself of the company hit record that we discussed a few months back on the LP show and just a delightful human being totally and one note for listeners we want to wave our arms around and say we're normally a pretty family friendly podcast but this episode does have some strong language as does this show itself obviously and before we dive in on our interview for those of you who listen to our episode with Brendan ike you know that we are very excited that these special episodes are brought to you by the Solana foundation many of you know this many of you have talked with us on LP calls about this frequently we're talking in the slack about it but what is Solana Solana is a global state machine and the world's most performant blockchain now what does that mean it means that developers can build applications with super low transaction fees and low latency without compromising composability since it's all on a single chain with a global state they're capable of processing tens of thousands of smart contracts at once but instead of actually talking to the folks at some lot of labs or the Solana foundation we want to use this time to talk to some of the folks building the protocols and decentralized applications on top today we want to feature a big pillar of the Solana ecosystem the phantom wallet here's Brandon millman the CEO of phantom to tell us all about it himself so Brandon what is phantom phantom is the fastest growing crypto wallet that helps users do more with the world of defy and NFT apps not only does phantom help users securely store their crypto it also helps them do stuff with their crypto like trading tokens and collecting NFTs from our launch in April 2021 we've quickly grown from zero to 2.4 million users if you want to start using crypto or web 3 applications phantom is the easiest most consumer family option out there we're growing to 2.4 million people I know we're in early 2022 so it has to be in a year or less definitely the proof isn't the pudding there on people being attracted to its ease of use I know it's built on Solana how did you make the call to build a net ecosystem actually from 2017 to 2021 before we started phantom the co-founders and myself all worked at this previous crypto startup called 0x which was focusing on building defy technology on Ethereum and so we actually have a very deep Ethereum background and worked in that space for a while and while we were working there we we noticed that wallets were in general pretty hard to use and are mostly geared towards developers we realized that in order to really bring crypto to the mainstream we needed to develop an experience that was much more user friendly at the same time the underlying Ethereum platform was becoming more and more expensive and less usable and approachable to the average consumer so we decided we needed a faster and cheaper platform that platform ended up being Solana that's great and are you desktop only or I saw something about launching mobile recently we start off as a Chrome extension but more recently released our iOS app at the end of January our thanks to Solana and phantom if you are considering developing on Solana head on over to Solana dot com slash developers or click the link in the show notes all right listeners join us in the slack talk about this episode acquired dot FM slash slack here Joe's interview on the LP show just search acquired LP show and any podcast player or click the link in the show notes here without further ado onto the interview Joseph Gordon Levitt and Brian Kapleman welcome to acquired thank you thrilled to be here guys we are super pumped for this and now we have to leave Joe this is I brought these guys to you Brian and they they close down and loves these little quips just great it's a little much Joe the first question we have that our audience has been asking is how is your life changed since being unacquired are you like getting recognized in in cafes now yeah by web three nerds I'm huge and I was at what's it eith con or something and everyone was super stoked I was joking just there but it's true and I'll earn some instant credibility perhaps by saying when I listen to your a theory and episode it really did change my mind about what web three is and I really wasn't aware of any of its merits I was kind of only aware of the hype in the scams and I'm coming quite strongly around to seeing how important it is for the future and I'm I'm still really just early in learning about it but you really inspired me and it makes me excited for for what it's going to become thanks Joe we we are all early though we seek to inform not to sway too much but yeah appreciate the thoughts that's probably why I was swayed because the folks swaying I'm like get that get the fuck out of here let's start right in with super pumped and I have a ton of other stuff I want to talk with you guys about previous projects you know Brian I'm a huge billions fan I want to talk about the art of storytelling a little bit and bringing these things to life but let's start right in with super pumped how did you two meet had you known you wanted to work together before or was it just the serendipity of this project well Joe doesn't know this but we actually met in a makeup trailer once no I don't know this you're even saving this story yeah I had a day as an actor in a movie you starred in right okay and we were in the makeup trailer and I was like Ryan's a friend of mine and you were very nice about it but I know I did not idea myself as a filmmaker right I was there to be a day player and I didn't want to go into a whole like other thing on the movie premium rush and he's talking about Ryan Johnson premium rush and yes Ryan Johnson who Joe's worked with a number of times David Levine's my creative partner lifelong best friend we do everything together and on this project best shactor showrunner with us and really ran the writers room with us and it's made the show with us but it's been rare over the course of my career that I can tangibly point the things that agents have done that were really incredibly just clearly positive but this is one of those cases where Dave and I wrote the pilot sent it to our agents they gave it to an agent one of our agents works with Joe as Ben Joe's agent for a long time a great guy named Warren Zavala Warren read the script and we had said Joe Gordon Levitts our first choice for this he's the person we think could do this in the world Warren read the script on a Friday sent it to Joe on Saturday in New Zealand Joe read the script on Sunday David Levine Joe and I got on a phone call at the end of which we shook hands virtually and that was it and we were partners going to make this show together it was really incredible and how often does something like this happen I'm in two ining not often no no not often at all very rarely so I've known Warren since I was 19 years old or something I'm I'm 40 now I was his first client actually he was an assistant to another agent of mine and I had quit acting and was going to college when he got his desk so to speak and he called me and it was like I'm an agent now and I was like I'm not acting he was like you should act and it went from there and he's been a fantastic confidant and collaborator ever since he's truly an ideal agent he doesn't bring me that much stuff with the level of enthusiasm with which he brought me super pumped because he knows that I hate almost everything and he said I think you're really going to like this I think this is something you should probably do and he very rarely uses words that strong so I read it right away and he was right you ask how rare that is I mean it is incredibly rare and Warren is one of these people who wears so many agents that clichés are true but Warren's not full of shit and he's in the past said this isn't going to work he's very quick to say why it's not going to work or think and he was like I think Joe's going to dig this I'm sending it and from our perspective look not to embarrass you Joe but it's really challenging to find actors who can project the kind of intelligence that Joe can project because Joe is such a thoughtful and smart person and he does the work now what you do do you do the work you do the reading you know you do the homework you do the reading you do the research you're prepared you're ready to talk about all of it you're somebody who comes to set having mastered the scene and is then willing to play and so there were all these things that we needed Travis to be because we also needed Travis to be somebody who you believed could enlist all these people in his world changing vision and we needed an actor who wouldn't try to protect himself at every turn an actor who wouldn't be worried about doing things that were unsavory or wrong morally questionable an actor who would be willing to you know look somebody in the eye and yell at them because they weren't super pumped and it's not easy to find that combination of things in an actor and so it was a very short list for us and this happened throughout this whole project and it is rare as rare as in Silicon Valley to get exactly the investors you want as your angels or in your series a and Joe knows because he was part of the conversation I mean Joe is our first choice Kyle Chandler was our first choice in Umat Thurmond carry Peshay is the only person we gave the role of Austin to like we just got our first choices throughout this whole thing and partially because once Joe was on it made other actors want to be on a party because this is a really important story to tell about America at this time so I'll ask this in reverse chronological order but I'll ask you both the same question Joe what was it about this project that made you say yes why was your agent right in telling you I think you're really gonna like this within a first few pages of reading the script the dialogue in this show's fireworks it's just fun we are kings gods Travis as Bego's getting in the way needs to be checked no one who wills an entire sector into being is in a balanced place my own investors are plotting my demise it's gone too far I can't line up with you I gotta stick with the company I am the company I don't think I've watched a show with that much like profanity per minute in a long time that must just be fun and it's so like well written profanity to and so Uber it's great well that's another reason I think we all have inside of ourselves I think a certain beast or animal that just wants to take what you want and fuck everybody else and win it all costs it's part of human nature is our you know hunter gather ancestry or something but most of us don't indulge that urge because there are consequences to pay if you do and get to see the consequences the Travis suffer because he did because but Travis does he just goes as hard as he can into that that just animal instinct and who doesn't want to indulge that side of himself so seeing the opportunity to step into an arena and just be that guy sounded like a lot of fun to me Uber serves as a excellent example of a larger trend that I think needs to be talked about which is what happens when the modus operandi is profits above all shareholder value up before everything who cares who we impact who cares how anybody feels none of that matters the only thing that matters is growth growth growth and it's not just Silicon Valley that's guilty of this mentality but Silicon Valley is doing it better than anybody else right now and this felt like just such a great story to tell to exemplify that kind of trend in our culture it's not necessarily new but it's as acute as ever right now and it's about to drive the human race off a cliff and I think it's something we as a generation need to change and so it's worth telling stories about yeah Brian chose exactly right and I think we were really compelled by a couple of questions and for us as for like the best investors when I've talked to them curiosity is something that makes you genuinely really curious where you just can't look away from the question until you start to understand what's behind it as an artist is a really great and rare thing and this question of disruption and the cost the price what gets disrupted is the benefit of having this new utility of changing this infrastructure is the convenience worth what's on the other side of the ledger and then I think twint with that is the question of what happens sometimes when revolutionaries unseat fascists are they able to avoid becoming fascists and is it inevitable that like Hannah Arant talks about that there's going to be lost treasure in the revolution and that lost treasure is the whole reason for the revolution in the first place and so to us uber yeah there are many Silicon Valley stories but to us the uber story in the way that Mike takes you into it the uber story is one that raises those questions and we hope the series raises those questions and maybe the series posits some theories so those were like sort of the thematic resonant reasons but also all the stuff Joe says applies to which is these people are fascinating fucking people and and they're so much fun to listen to and watch and think about and they just fire you up and then lastly into this audience I'll say this which won't mean that much to that many people but I know Bill girl and I know Bill girl is separate from this and I like Bill girl this is going to sound odd but I'm very friendly with Mark and Jason and Bill girl there can't there's like five of us I think in the world you're the bridge you're the bridge and the book talks with us but it seems to me there's really a cost that Bill girl he paid or a question for Bill girl which is which is the worst cost leaving this thing in place that might impair all the whole endeavor but protecting the way that I'm thought of by a C group of founders or engineering the removal of this person forever changing or cementing my reputation in a certain area in a way that's going to harm this thing that I've really spent a lot of time trying to answer so there's all these amazing moral questions and life questions for TK many for Ariana and then girl he has his own really challenging question and so that seems I just amazing to like dive into Bill girl he is a giant literally a giant among venture capitalist but that like a venture capitalist would be a primary character on a show the likes of which you all would create like I never in a million years would have imagined that 10 years ago I'm going to challenge that just a little bit because like Christian Bale plays Michael Barry in a movie why would a quant investor hedge guy be worthy because that I don't tell you why because we're fascinated by people who put it all on the line man our culture is fascinated by people who step up to the craps table and say I'm going to put it all on heart eight or I have a reason why I can count we are fascinated by people who make these decisions and are either right or wrong I think so knowing Bill personally but working from source material in Mike's book as a producer showrunner writer how do you weigh working both from source material but also when you have your own you know primary source information from getting to know these people in real life too well we didn't talk to the people in the show for the show meaning I told Bill because I'm responsible person in that way I said to Bill Mike Isaac sent me his book we're going to go tell this story anything I may have heard from any conversation that I had with you socially is not in the show we're starting from Mike's book it's all going to be sourced by him and we're going that way and then the wall went up on both sides and that's that huh fascinating I mean you got to serve the story you telling that's what I you know what I mean I you got to serve the story you tell yeah I mean Bill girl and I mostly talk about Jason is well so I mean we mostly talk about rock and roll each and Joe how does that manifest for you as the sort of lead actor do you also interface with Mike or does Mike sort of work through you know David and Brian and how does that work I had a couple conversations with Mike but no mostly I just read his book and beyond that I wanted to talk to a bunch of people that worked closely with Travis because I wanted to know not just what happened but how it felt to have a conversation with them or be in the room then what was actually like personally because that's my job I'm not a journalist I'm the actor so it's my job to like make it feel human so I talked with quite a number of people that worked closely with him and did learn a lot of different things that were different from what you might read and press about him personally about his personality because a lot of what you read is unjustifiably so is questionable decisions he made arguably unethical behavior and I think this show does not at all shy away from showing those things but I also wanted to show not just those things I don't can't reduce this person to these headlines I want to show a whole human that's what makes I think a gripping performance and hearing from people about a lot of positive things actually a lot of people said how much they liked how inspiring he was how compelling he was how much energy he would bring to a room and that was really fascinating because that's not always evident when you read articles about him or even when you read Mike's book and so finding that balance of like I want to actually make the audience love this guy but also then be confronted with oh no this person who I was sort of falling in love with is doing some really seemingly terrible things how we rectify that is to me that complexity is what makes for a great story yeah and Brian talked about how impressive it is that you as an actor are willing to portray someone who's doing bad things where it sort of looks like Joe so does Joe do bad things you know the humans are subconscious in that way oh man on a daily basis the director would say cut and I would I would just instantly start apologizing if you're sorry it's not me everyone knows it's not me right the people that I've now know I've been working with every day for months and months I'm still having to reassure them like you know I'm not really like like this right yeah all the time all the time I've seen a lot of your movies you usually play someone pretty likable did you feel uncomfortable playing someone that at least in my opinion on balance is less likable than the character you usually tend to play it's funny I mean it depends on what you mean by likable I bet actually that this character will be more well liked than well for example I just did a show called mr. Korman where you know it's a guy who's trying his best to do the right thing at every turn and just stepping in it and second guessing himself and lacking confidence and like this is the other side of me maybe and I think Travis will be more instantly winning because if you're on camera people respond to confidence in Travis Galenick is nothing if not confident you know we have these business moments in our culture that were sort of are like Rochak tests like you know there's Michael Lewis's Liars poker there's the social network which we've talked about where maybe written a created intending one thing and then get received Joe you know the responding to confidence in your thought that like people will like Travis more than you might think how much was that in your minds making this right and you can speak to this but it was one of the one of the first things I think I brought up with you guys is like how can we make sure that we don't inspire a new generation of young entrepreneurs to be assholes and I do think it is a concern and you know does Scarface inspire people to be criminals does the Wolf of Wall Street inspire people in financial sector to be crooks you know maybe some like when you're talking about large audiences all sorts of people are going to take any given movie or show all different ways but I think because this show is so unflinching in shining light on the protagonist's shortcomings and dark moments I would hope at least that the majority of the audience will come away understanding this as a cautionary tale as opposed to a glorification of bad behavior 100 percent when you watch the last three episodes of the season it's not impossible that you'll have some empathy for Travis or sympathy for moments or think he in some micro moments was treated wrongly by people who aren't really his equal in the field of war or whatever but there are moments in like the fifth six and seventh episodes that the lens changes who were seeing the story through changes and the point of view shifts in a way that makes certain things clear but also I would say this there's a wave form to this which you all know a lot more about than I do about how things like wave forms work I just know what they kind of look like but over time you're gonna understand that Wolf of Wall Street's not glorifying Jordan Belfort like you just are in the moment people might be taken with Leonardo Tapio right in the moment people might think that this guy is a master of the universe but even now if we watch that movie and we see the end when he's pathetically selling the pens you know telling the people sell me a pen when it's the real guy and you apprehend that you understand the emptiness you understand the cost and yeah in the moment there's a lot of glitter but if you actually look at it it's really clear what they're talking about and I have a lot of confidence in people over the long term understanding these things that we make as artists we can only be attracted to the things that call us that ask these questions and we have to tell those stories as rigorously and with as much truth as we can and we have to raise the questions that we find compelling and we have to imbue it with our most personal thoughts on the matter and then we have to trust that eventually that if we do our jobs well that thing will be received we can't do anything other than that and think that we're engaging in art so that's the only way I can answer it I can't be concerned about the small group of people are going to be like I want to be just like that fucking guy and there will be those people but I think we're trying to shine a light on what it means to be that kind of fucking guy and what we're saying is society when we prop up people who have incredible verbal acuity and great math skills and the ability to galvanize in a way that serves us because we all take ubers but in a way that serves that individual more and that does a disservice to huge swaths of people that we're not thinking about as we get into the back of the uber so if you get into the back of the uber and you're like that guy's cool but for one moment you think about the person in the office who maybe was a treated right or the driver who thought he was going to have a fleet of cars because there were deals that encouraged to buy those cars and then suddenly those cars are being towed away which we show it's in the book and we show it maybe you'll just have a moment of empathy for your uber driver that you wouldn't have but maybe you won't but maybe you will. Yeah that's a great point. Yeah I think it's sort of an important difference between art and other professions you know like being investors or being entrepreneurs. I think an artist's job is more like Brian said make people feel something and ask questions whereas it's not really our job to provide the answers to those questions that's not art. I'm actually curious I said a minute ago what happens when companies are only incentivized by profit where does that leave us with a world it seems like it's maybe leading us towards disaster what are your thoughts on that and like do you see a need to try to change that and how could that change and what would that do to to your jobs as investors I'm curious to hear your your thoughts on that. I really like your framework of artists jobs are to make you you feel and to ask the important questions but not provide the answers and if you're working in an operating company or you're an entrepreneur or you are an investor your job is the answers and to be more concrete about that your job is to create value for your shareholders the vast majority of the time the way you do that is put something out in the world that creates value for customers and then capture some percentage of that value that you create and that thing that you're creating that product you're creating that value creating out in the world for people is necessarily an answer to something presumably some problem that they had and so you know some business can be conducted in a more artful way but it is kind of antithetical your job is to give something to someone that solves a problem for them and then collect value from that and for art this is why you can't put a price on making someone feel a certain way it's lightning at a bottle when you have it and you're able to make someone who rarely cries cry that sort of that magical price list thing there is a continuum though isn't there because like if I think about your episodes about a 16z and mosaic to a net scape like it mosaic mark injuries in artists oh yeah he's changing the world is as an artist I would assert and he's looking at something that doesn't exist in seeing a way that he wants to see the world and he's no one even knew who owned the underlying code no one knew who owned the thing did the school own it did the institute own it but then partners come into it things change and it becomes a business and priority shift and what that's fascinating to me always like what happens to an artist like that you know maybe marks the smartest person in in the world you could make that argument but he's also like this great visionary artistic thinker who then becomes a business person at incredible business person right yeah and what happens when that ordering switches around of priorities and that's part of all this I think all these people had it in them to do art in some way the show shows this so well like so so well like because yeah Travis you know like a lot of what you're describing about an artist is him like he will this thing into existence all the cards were stacked against him and it is unquestionably a better experience and there were things totally wrong with the way the world was before and then you had that great scene with girlie where he's talking with his wife are always with his partners right it is like you know I used to think that half of founders were angels and half of them were David crash and I realized they're all David crash that was so good well thank you and yeah that seemed really significant and it's fascinating to me that nobody here is bringing up a guy who's like the closest thing to an artist and this which is Garrett camp I mean if you think about Garrett and how much he wanted to just be doing his other company because it was fun and art and if you think about that company that was like an art project I loved it stumble upon was the greatest not a business right totally not a business but great I used it all the time it was the best it would just take you on a total adventure on the internet and I loved it and Garrett to me is an artist within this whole thing you know and who figured out I need a Medici I need a couple Medici's I need a worker I need an investor I need someone who's gonna get our Medici like and was able to sort of put that stuff I don't I've never met Garrett or spoken to him but in my head I view him that way supposedly according to what we found part of his original inspiration for Uber was watching Casino Royale the first day no Craig James Bond film there's a scene where he summons his car with his phone we couldn't get the rights to Casino Royale it's like the only time I've ever not gotten out the rights to anything we tried we couldn't get the rights I would have been so great that's in the book it's in Mike's book that's in Mike's book I'm trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible but you do have a means of storytelling in the show where you're showing the way that Travis sort of remembers something happening but it's of course a very apocryphal story and then the background falls away and then you get to see actually here's how it really happened and you know so we did this big two and a half hour research episode on Uber and so David and I did a hundred hours of research and so we found like the quote-unquote founding story of Fouber where they're looking over from the Eiffel Tower and David and I both then found like oh that's the apocryphal story and the real story is and like once it starts playing on screen on the Eiffel Tower I was like no way these guys got duped these guys can't get duped they're like the most well researched and then when it fades away it shows that indeed that was the apocryphal story I was like masterminds so I just have to applaud you for that that was one of the things that made me really want to get involved with this too is reading even in that first script that oh they're they're gonna play with this because yes especially on TV like playing with form and kind of fucking with storytelling conventions is not normal that's the kind of thing I like to do in the kind of movies I like to watch but I was really excited that they were taking what could otherwise be compartmentalized as sort of a mainstream story idea and using non mainstream filmmaking techniques and taking bold risks to fuck with the audience's perception like that like what you're talking about then and necessarily you have to get clever because reading a book is a completely different experience than watching it on screen and so you need to innovate off the book when you're adapting from a book because there are things like internal dialogue that are kind of hard to show on screen but you also have so much more opportunity because you have such a richer canvas to do the types of things like that fade away perfectly said yeah the medium is the message as they say and I think Joe we've talked about this but because so much of what your culture David and Ben talks about is disruption it allowed us to disrupt form and what we were doing because we're taking advantage of the fact that the story we're telling is about disruption so we're not under an obligation to tell you a story that's presented like prasinium and like it's back here and it's just with the normal rules of cinematography or the normal rules of what can happen inside that box you know all right for our second sponsor of the episode we have one of our very very very very favorite companies here at acquired modern treasury they are by far the best way to manage your company's payment operations their platform allows you to move money right in your product using code they literally turn banking operations into code with APIs it is incredible they have direct integrations with almost all major commercial banks you can move money directly without involving finance without doing it manually or dealing with the complexity of all the banking systems rails that we talked about on our Bitcoin and other episodes it has been incredible to watch this company over the past two years and we've had this relationship with them and acquired two years ago they were moving 10 million dollars a month in their product via their APIs last fall that grew to a hundred million dollars a month now they are moving two billion dollars a month they are trusted by fast growing companies in the economies most important sectors companies like gusto marquetta trip actions class pass block by you can use modern treasury for anything that you would want to move money for in your product like automatic payments direct debits incoming payment reconciliation digital wallet onboarding their great web three crypto onboarding tool whether you're building a fintech app or a web three app or looking to add payments to your software product of any type modern treasury's APIs make it super easy and simple to initiate monitor and reconcile payments track balances and do everything way faster than you could by integrating traditional banking rails yourself typically the way this is going to work is that finance is doing stuff using tools for finance people and engineers are doing stuff using tools for engineers and someone's written some custom internal dashboard for the operations team to you know keep an eye on the other stuff modern treasury just unifies all that and because modern treasury doesn't sit in the flow of funds payments settle in your account to X faster than if you were doing all of this manually truly this is like such a classic example of how integrating payment rails directly does not make your beer taste better your proverbial start-up sphere your product tastes better you should focus on your product let modern treasury handle your payment operations they are wonderful you can learn more at modern treasury dot com slash acquired just tell them when you get in touch that Ben and David sent you it's almost like we have product market fit for acquired sponsors with people who take things that don't make your beer taste better off your plate kind of feels like that's the theme here and if I'm a startup founder that is exactly what I'm looking for so anyway our thanks to modern treasury Jeff Bezos was even more present than he ever realized or then we ever realized when we started doing this show so wonderful thank you modern treasury what was the process and timeline like from micrace the book book comes out to then you and show time are working on the project before the book came at way before the book oh before oh wow Mike DM me on Twitter would you read my book it's not coming out for five months did you have a relationship before then just like a Twitter friendship oh my gosh that's amazing Twitter is so awesome it's awesome he so he deams me and then I read 25 pages or 50 pages and I love it and I say to my partner Dave like dude you got to fucking read this book I think it's our next thing and he agrees and then and then we go to Mike and say hey we want to do this thing we might be able to write it for a year but we will do this and then the whole town wanted it but Mike stayed true to us in our word and because we committed right away to him we didn't play any games he didn't play any games with us and we just held firm with each other we're like we're gonna make this show we're gonna make it very high level and Mike was in the writers room every day Mike was in the writers room with us every single day oh I didn't know that I knew he was like present but I didn't know he was in the room every day as a coexecutive producer he didn't write any episodes but yeah Joe he was in the room I would say if we did a hundred days in the room Mike was there for 94 of the hundred and then he was reading every script and giving us notes and well it was great in the room is we'd be in the room and we'd go what do we really think happened in that room what's your sourcing and he would go and he would reveal his sources but he would go get his notes and then sometimes he'd be like let me come back in a half hour and since you would come back with the person you know and suddenly like the person would be in the zoom with us because it's all zoom rooms now so suddenly the person's in the zoom and they're off the record going like oh here's what's fucking happened so we're just living it it was crazy that's so fun the series and obviously most of the action is based in San Francisco how much was on location in San Francisco versus I assume mostly filmed in LA in studios it was really just a few days of ex-turiors in San Francisco the rest is yeah in LA mostly on you know the paramount lot in sound stages don't tell anybody I do obviously didn't film it in San Francisco but if you were then like that's what it's like you can just oh like I'm gonna run down the street let me go get girly bring him in here and like let's talk about what really happened Brian can you talk about how the process for this which is recent factual events that happened in a super high drama sort of pseudo finance environment compares to the research that you do for billions which is also present day also finance high drama but you get to kind of be like current historical fiction on billions whereas you're trying to be like faithful to source material on super pumped obviously the dialogue is gonna be you have to figure out what we said in the room and as you guys said make it colorful entertaining but the incidents I mean this was crucial that you're gonna dramatize things to make them interesting and exciting and compelling but you are not gonna tell parts of the story that affect people in a way that they're bullshit you just can't so you're really trying to what looks like the way really dinner is the fifth episode like we had to know what really happened and then make a gut call right because certain people that but we read everything written about it and talk to as many people as we could talk to to try to understand what happened at that dinner because you just kind of need to know in a way and also this story offers you things like you know we read Mike's book the thing that happened with Sergei Brynn and Gabby and TK how are you gonna make something up with the third richest guy in the world doing that and then this other guy was a billionaire and like you can't make that up you could just try to cast it incredibly well and set the environment up so that Joe can feel that these events are really happening now and we got a great Sergei I mean David Crumball's killed Joe such inspired casting and by the way one of several old dear friends of mine that got to kind of make these also supporting appearances in the show Crumbhold says Sergei Brynn definitely a highlight amazing one of the only people who got an improvised line into the show too did you maybe the only improvised line in the whole thing and spectacular well well we're on the topic of actors playing real life people one person that I noticed so sometimes someone will be watching a YouTube video and that YouTube videos the real YouTube video of like something that actually happened in the past there's a scene where Travis is watching a YouTube video of Jeff Bezos and a very familiar actor is playing Jeff Bezos and I couldn't help but laugh and I'm like no way like how do you make the call on whether to use actual source material for something like that versus cast it because the exact thing we needed isn't online anymore oh fascinating I meant to have him do the laugh he brought the laugh and we were so happy that he did the laugh oh so good the shotgun laugh because like Joe's an incredible actor so when Joe's playing that scene he's not watching anything he's watching some clip of Bezos I was watching a piece of tape tapes to the laptops monitors what I was watching I do sometimes wish people understood how challenging a job it is that Joe Gordon Levin asked to do and you know obviously it affords lots of amazing things in life and it's incredible when you have the cathartic transcendent moments but the work required to do what Joe does is is incredible and actors are low to talk about it because they seem because everyone's like oh yeah it's really hard to you know show up a thing but to have to do that ten times and play that and be in that mental state and be just pretending you're watching it like yeah you guys see this incredible footage of a guy doing Bezos Joe was just imagining that and making that happen thank you do thanks man we rarely get to talk with folks of your talent and doing what you do on this show and I think listeners don't live in your world so this is probably the first time that someone would get to hear like what is it like to act in a green screen you know white tape laptop like how do you invoke the level of imagination that you need to do you have any tactics you know I never studied acting in an academic setting I don't have names for all the things that I probably do do but when you're in a green screen setting and you don't have any reality to play against it's just like playing pretend you know I have a four year old and a six year old there's somewhere else half the day just you know playing pretend just imagining what's going on and I remember doing that when I was their age and now I still do that I do it on command at five in the morning when I have to and the challenge of acting isn't for me is not making things up or playing pretend it's actually having to do that while straddling a hornet's nest of logistical nightmares all day long because a movie set is just a mess even the most well run sets and this was a well run set but even the most well run by nature there's a million things all going on all at once it's noisy it's cluttered there's someone close to you the hard part is kind of keeping your focus in your concentration and maintaining that more childlike spirit of imagination while having to contend with all this morass of logistical crap that's the hard part wow plus you have your own personal life where there's very real emotions that you're experiencing when you're off camera too no I don't have that I gave that up I'm with empire I don't think folks realize this but when you and I had a couple of phone calls back when you were shooting this you were like can I call you it I don't know what it was like eight p.m. I'm on my lunch break it's like what what is the daily schedule like and why are you shooting so late into the night so there's a thing called a 12 hour turnaround you know standard days on a movie set or a show set is is 12 hours and we can talk about whether or not that civilized or right and you know the union almost went on strike the union of stage workers and I think with good reason it's not exactly the best lifestyle but be that is it may you work at minimum 12 hours and then you need to have a 12 hour turnaround but 12 hours is really the minimum so oftentimes you're working 13 hours 14 hours 15 hours and if you started work at say eight in the morning and you finished at eight in the evening well then maybe you could start again at eight in the morning but mostly if you started eight in the morning then you finish at 10 in the evening then you have to start the next day at 10 in the morning and so over the course of the week that keeps happening so you start the week at five in the morning and by the end of the week you're coming in at noon or 1 p.m. and you're having quote unquote lunch at nine at night I mean everything Joseph is exactly right the other things that sometimes happen is if you're shooting a night scene you might stage your week so that on Friday we're shooting night or on Thursday and then you're going to intentionally do that and we just like our link up like so we like to call it lunch nobody calls it dinner I remember I like learning that in the beginning the thing like it's just lunch no matter what time of day it is so Brian I've listened to a lot of episodes of the moment and Joe that this is a topic that you and I talked about on our LPs episode here a little bit can you walk me through the process both of you of when you create something and you know it's great versus you create something it's on its way to being released and you're like crap crap crap crap crap this is not good this is not good are your spidey senses about that right or can you not trust yourself at all about how the audience will receive something if you know it's bad it's bad if you know it's bad it's fucking bad Joe that has to be your experience too right when you know that it's you're like oh fuck that doesn't turn around suddenly like oh what a great surprise it's great yes that's true but I've also been in those things and then they've been hits so there's no accounting for taste you guys get about the feeling of the of knowing the work is good or not and like when it's bad you know it's bad and you miss like everyone misses sometimes but then yeah you're I mean Ben you're being nicely asking me about runner runner and that experience was I knew I mean I knew it was a horrible movie every day that I was working on it and we couldn't get it better and Ben and us tried our best and Justin tried his best and it was just one of those things there were a variety of reasons and it was very difficult to manage knowing six months or now movies going to come out that's going to bomb and get a nine on rod tomatoes and they're right yeah I like because I don't care if I get bad when I know the works good I don't I'm completely divorced from any of the brownifications but if you know it's coming and you know they're right you're just like fuck you know it's horrible have you ever thought something was like awesome you're like this is just pure aces and then it comes out and people are like like they just don't get it well look I just did a show mr. quorum and they didn't get picked up for a second season and I personally really like it it's a great show yeah thank you so I'm and I made something that's very much to my taste and truth is is like I don't like a lot of stuff that's on TV and I've got a hand it's apple that they let me make something that was very particular and I said like hey I have the ability to do this how often do artists get to do this something on a relatively grand scale that's like just really not trying to pander to any particular commercial bucket but just making what I would like to see and I did that and and again I'm proud of it and some people really like the show and then not enough people did though and so it didn't get picked up so that yeah that does happen and it's humbling and learning experience and that's I guess the balance to try to strike is making stuff that is on the one hand like truly genuinely something that I love but can simultaneously be something that large audiences like as well and you know I think Brian and David are great at that they're making something that's clearly very true to themselves and they've really found a way to make that resonate with a large audience and it's admirable thanks but it doesn't always happen and I mean yeah I've had the experience like our first movie I loved it I knew that a cast was incredible I knew the script was so solid John Dahl's a genius director you know the movie was a bomb in the theaters but now it's you know obviously a movie that people not only like what are obsessed with and you know it did hundreds of millions on DVD later and it's a movie I get asked to do a sequel to every day of my life now I mean 10 times a day and 25 years later that movie's a classic but at the time it was a bomb so I learned right then because we got two horrible reviews in the two magazines that mattered like on the same day time and news we came out they both hated it and it was a week before release and at the time those things mattered and I remember going to like a fetal position like am I going to have a career it's my first movie gosh but then the next day I woke up and I remember I had a clear thought I can still write they can't take away from me the ability to make stuff and once I realized that I was like god none of that matters what matters is can I look at Joe and can Joe look at me and Dave and be like we showed up here every fucking day and we gave it everything we had and we worked with rigor and our full hearts to make the thing great and we worked and made the thing that we said we were gonna make because that's also it can you go and as can your crazy craft good enough that you can achieve the thing you set out to do and we've all been at this really long time so now like it's likely that we can get something that's a pretty close approximation to what we say we're gonna do so if you do that and it evokes the feeling you were trying to get into a vote for your group of collaborators that's the thing like I was so happy to show early on the process but we had the first six minutes or something finished of the first episode and I got to show it to him and no like well we kept our promise to you you kept your promise to us that's really all you can do we said we was gonna feel like this thing and he was gonna deliver this thing and we did that for each other and that's a bond then I'll tell you the main thing that's amazing is we've become real friends over this but let's say Joe had off to do a thing in Zimbabwe and I went off to do a thing in South America if we met up seven years later we would hug and be like brothers because we've gone through this thing together and worked in the way that we did yes sir and that's an incredible gift of this thing that we get to do with our lives especially when you show up fully to do this work together it's a really beautiful magical thing and that's where my focus is it's never on that other part of it I can't you go crazy if you let yourself focus on that other part of it one way to put his intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation that I really really believe in and we mentioned Ryan Johnson at the beginning of the show I'll tell a little anecdote about him I made a short film that I submitted to a film festival and it got rejected and Ryan had helped me make it and I was really proud of it I had worked on I had done everything for it I had shot it I had edited it I had made the music I'd like I'd done this whole thing I'm like 23 or something and submitted it to a festival it had gotten rejected I was low about that Ryan sent me a copy of the book letters to a young poet by real K which is a wonderful book that I highly recommend and one of the things it talks about in the in right towards the beginning the book it's sort of a mentor poet speaking to writing a letter to a young poet and saying you're asking me whether I think your poetry is good and here's my answer to you forget about all that forget what anybody says go into yourself all you can really do if you want to be an artist and maybe the supplies beyond art but I feel quite confident it does apply to being an artist all you can do is just go as deep as you possibly can into yourself and see if you can dig down deep enough where you can honestly say I'm not paying attention to anybody else or anybody's perspective or opinion I'm just here with myself because that's where your unique voice is and if you can get there that's the thing and yeah then you can ignore the rest and you know that's not necessarily going to make you money or make you popular but being an artist isn't about money in popularity you know Ralph Waldo members and applies to right self for what which is the idea that if you do give voice to what's in or most and that's not self indulge is not just tossing it off it's like doing the work of getting to the thing you really care about it's likely that that's going to strike off of other people too because you have the courage to put it forth yes what someone like Joe can do is go deep enough to express with his face and his body and his voice something that's so particular a personal and private to him but because he does it with such openness and truth we see it and we're moved by it because he's reflecting back to us parts of ourselves that year we don't have the courage to experience or lost that we've experienced and that is the thing that the most the actors who are on Joe's level are able to do and it's a very beautiful and sacred kind of a thing for that reason I think thanks man all right for our final sponsor we have a very special company to tell you about that's near and dear to the acquired communities heart mystery and to tell you how near and dear it is we had two requests last week in the acquired slack maybe two weeks ago to say like hey can we get an update on that company that you had on the LP show way back when it seems like they've really grown and turned into something really cool well yes that is true and they have some fun recent news that we'll share with you here so when we last left these plucky heroes they had come on the LP show to talk about pivoting from facilitating magical nights out for consumers before covid to magical virtual experiences in home well everyone else was stuck in their lockdowns and for folks who need even more of a memory jog this is when David and I had our little two person Christmas party a few years back we wanted a little fencing match it was quite fun but that's not at all what mystery is now because this is about the scrappiest company in the world so the final twist it turns out a whole bunch of consumers who did these virtual in home experiences in April of 2020 also worked at places like amazon microsoft apple kinsy uber uber twitter autodesk etc and while the virtual experiences with their friends those were fine what you really wanted was upgrading those virtual experiences for your team you know these happy hours everyone's going on on zoom where you have 17 zooms and now you log on for one more and you're supposed to like have fun everybody have fun we're not leaving here until everybody's having fun the beatings will continue until morale improves you're seeing that signs that's the that's one of my favorite lines so enter mystery they take over every aspect of those terrible team happy hours from scheduling to planning to executing them they even track engagement and play retention afterwards makes them not suck so flash forward since april 2020 they've executed tens of thousands of events and for not just huge companies but startups like modern treasury and convoi and others they just raised a giant series a from graylock to really blow this thing out we're so pumped for our friends there these guys are so scrappy this story is amazing they have built this huge business now on the third pivot like talk about pulling an e-break oh yeah and like not to share the numbers or anything but like it's a big business a lot of people are doing this and this is something that teams are very excited to be taking off their plates it's just great it's so so much better if your company could use someone to take all the headache out of those events get them off your plate turn them from something employees dread to something awesome and magical head on over to try mystery dot com slash acquired well the way that we tend to wind down episodes here as a section we call carve outs and this is where we ask the guests to make recommendations of something they've seen or read or anything they would recommend to listeners and I'm going to start real quick for people who don't realize how insanely multi-talented Joe is open up YouTube and search for the cure Katie Perry Jimmy Fallon and you will see a clip of this is the most unbelievable thing Joe you singing the cure song in the style of Katie Perry on Jimmy Fallon's new show and then I think there's a second one to if you playing a variety of instruments so if you thought Joe is a talented actor you got the depth part right but you're missing the breadth I'm flattered thank you Ben those are fun as surprising and super fun to see but only kick it over to Brian what would you recommend listeners check out well you brought up liars poker before and Michael Lewis is just released for the first time an audiobook unabridged audiobook of liars poker but he also put out a companion podcast and the companion podcast is spectacular and second for this conversation we're having there's a book I just read called unrequited infatuations by little Stephen Van Zant who you know as either Bruce Springsteen's right hand or as James Garnofini's right hand in the sprinos you had a great episode with him didn't you yeah we just did one now that his book came out and it's an amazing book about art and commerce and about all these questions unrequited infatuations I highly recommend it great Joe I've been listening to a podcast called your undivided attention that's the center for humane technology Tristan Harris and there's an episode called a problem well stated is half solved and his guest is this some scholar named Daniel Schmucktonberger I think and it's relevant to what we're talking about I think because when he's saying the problem well stated is half solved I've never really heard a conversation that to me so sharply and comprehensively observed what's going wrong with the world and what it might take to fix it not that they're offering comprehensive solutions but you know we all hear all the time like well there's climate change and oh Facebook's also breaking democracy and there's a rise in authoritarianism and also incredible inequality and all these different things but they feel like it feels like whack a mole it feels like there's no way how could we ever possibly address all of these things and one of the things that he was getting at was part of what is interesting to me about the uber story that I was touching on earlier also which is a lot of it does come down to what's the incentive how does the whole big system work and when you've got a system that mandates exponential economic growth but you've got a finite planet it's by definition unsustainable so we're definitely heading for catastrophe unless we change the way the system works and no longer require it to be grower die grower die grower die and by the way that's that was a phrase that's the name of episode one grower die I came away from that podcast pretty thoroughly convinced all the other things are dominoes to that one and that if we can't change that we're not going to get any of the other ones but if we can change that we maybe have a shot of solving the rest well it's beautifully said perfectly so I'll go real quick my last one Brian your episode with Jacob Dylan I thought was so good it was so fun having been a kid growing up listening to his music I honestly don't know that anybody else could have asked him about his like father the way that you did as he says I'm there Jacob and I've been friends with we were in our very early 20s so I mean yeah I can ask him because I've known it for 30 years right but yes thank you though like I'm not gonna ask Jacob Dylan about his dad you know but like I'm really glad you did awesome well Joe Brian we thank you so much for coming on anything you want to call out for listeners to find you somewhere on the internet or do something I want to call out that everyone should go watch the movie Joe wrote and directed Don John it is spectacular film and like that's the other thing I want to recommend I don't know if people have seen it but like it shows the breadth of your work man because it's so different from the television series that you directed you know so that and then yeah if you want to find me on my Twitter a bright compliment but ask before you send me your manuscript my guys you ask me first I'll just send shit ask ask me oh love it thanks guys thanks for having us on here thanks everybody oh yeah check out hit record hit record dot org is it dot com now we own them all it was originally hit record dot org sweet hit record dot anything thanks guys all right listeners with that be sure to tune in this upcoming Sunday I believe the 27th is when super pumped will air I'm excited to see what everyone thinks many of you were very very close to this story and so it'll be fascinating to experience it as a series when so many of you experienced it either through a friend or family member or you personally being at Uber as a lot of these events unfolded well with that listeners join us in the slack I'm sure we'll be talking about not only this interview but the show itself acquire dot FM slash slack go check out the LP show view our previous interview with Joe just search acquired LP show and any podcast player if you want to become an LP and get those episodes two weeks earlier that's at acquired dot FM slash LP Jonah zoom calls all kinds of cool stuff and if you're looking for that next new thing in your career acquired dot FM slash jobs those are handpicked curated jobs from your friends that acquired and with that feel free to share this episode with your friends we love tweets we love one-on-one stuff even more so if there's somebody where you think they'd really enjoy this pass it along and our thank you to the Salona Foundation modern treasury and mystery and we will see you next time we'll see you next time