‘Steve Jobs’ writer and director on avoiding the typical biopic

'Steve Jobs' writer and director on avoiding the typical biopic

Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Sunshine) and Aaron Sorkin’s (The Social Network, Moneyball) Steve Jobs is a unique film in many ways, not the least of which is its complete disregard for the tropes of most biographical films. Instead, it’s more like a play in three parts, each of which occurs before one of Steve Jobs’ infamous product reveals: the Macintosh in 1984; the NeXT computer in 1988; and the iMac in 1998. For a pseudo-follow-up to Sorkin’s Oscar-winning Facebook founding story, Steve Jobs basically feels like the complete opposite. We had the chance to sit down with Sorkin and Boyle to discuss how they crafted the film, how Jobs’ daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, helped the production and how they dealt with the specter of The Social Network.

'Steve Jobs' writer and director on avoiding the typical biopic

Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle (left) and writer Aaron Sorkin

What led both of you to this project?

Sorkin: I was asked to adapt it — I had a really good experience with producer Scott Rudin and Sony [on The Social Network and Moneyball]. This was a very big subject that … I said yes before I knew really what I was going to do, or anything about it. … I knew what I didn’t want to do, and that was a biopic; that cradle-to-grave structure where it’s the greatest hits along the way … I wanted to do something else. What it turned out to be is almost … a play-like construct. It was obviously going to need two things: a visual master, and someone brilliant at getting great performances from actors. Even the best actors weren’t going to be able to come in and simply learn their lines and do it. And all of those things point to Danny.

Boyle: I’ve never read anything like this before. I mean, I knew a bit about Steve Jobs, but kind of the lazy bits we’d all picked up. … Just the bravado of it, and the fact that it wasn’t a biopic, and the fact that you learned so much more than you would have from a biopic. And there was also the challenge of it. I mean I love that — when you just don’t know.

Did you look beyond Walter Isaacson’s book at all for material?

Sorkin: I read everything that I could get my hands on. But what was more important, and more valuable than that, was spending time with all of the people who are represented in the film, obviously with the exception of Steve. And then with a few dozen others beyond that. I was very lucky to be able to spend time with Lisa Brennan-Jobs. She had been unwilling to speak with Walter when he was writing the book because her father was alive at the time.

Also, John Sculley had practically been in hiding since 1986 when he left Apple — he was eager, in fact, to speak with me. Joanna Hoffman was a huge asset. A number of people who aren’t in the movie, like Lee Clow (the ad mastermind who helped come up with Apple’s 1984 commercial and “Think Different” campaign) and former Apple CEO Mike Markkula were great to talk to. And Woz [Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak] was great to talk to.

'Steve Jobs' writer and director on avoiding the typical biopic

I love how you focused on the relationship between Steve and Lisa. How did she help you craft that relationship?

Sorkin: I have a daughter and Danny has two. I’ll be honest, it was very difficult for me to initially get past Steve’s treatment of his daughter. I thought … the story kind of stops there for me. I don’t care what’s past that. I never said that to Lisa, but Lisa helped me past that. She would tell stories about her father that weren’t necessarily the most flattering stories, but she would always, at the end of it, kind of point and say, “See? He really loved me because of this.” And that was very helpful.

How did Steve’s treatment of Lisa make you feel? When I first learned about it, I thought: “This guy was a genius who’s done so much. … How do you react like this to your daughter?”

Sorkin: Asking yourself that question kind of leads to storytelling. Once you can say, that doesn’t make any sense, you find yourself wanting to answer that question.

I like how you described the film as kind of play-like. It does feel very unique. How did you go about adapting that?

Sorkin: To be clear, the script is play-like. The film is as cinematic as it gets!

Boyle: What was wonderful about it was obviously the very restrictiveness of it. There’s a turning point where you find it very liberating. And I think that’s true of the actors as well. You can see this on Michael [Fassbender, who plays Jobs], especially in the third act. The pressure on the obligation of servicing this kind of writing is both crushing at times … but it’s actually very liberating in the end when you own it. And we devised a way of doing it that would make the actors own it. So we broke it into three [parts], so that would make it manageable size-wise. And they could just focus on each story. … Breaking it into three and then emphasizing the difference between those three was very liberating.

It is very challenging, initially. And it’s weird, the [relationship between] restriction and freedom. We’ve been offered a lot of money sometimes to do things, and we’ve always taken less money. Because I find that very liberating as well, when you’re stuck a bit.

Sorkin: I know what Danny is saying. In television, every once in a while with the West Wing, or something, the studio would say, “We’ve been over budget the last seven episodes, can you write an episode with no guest cast, no new sets, no extras, that kind of thing?” Those have always turned out to be my favorite episodes because those restrictions make you think, “Okay, well this is just going to take place in a few rooms.” It’s better than just a blank piece of paper.

How did you both go about making this film different than The Social Network? You can’t really escape that comparison.

Boyle: No you can’t, and you shouldn’t either because I think it really is a successor. Aaron’s slightly shyer about this, but I thought the first time I read it was: This is part two. … Also, when you go back and look at [The Social Network], it was amazing how it’s mainly people sitting down. A major motion picture with that kind of appeal and energy and everybody sits down, all the time. And the only time they don’t sit down, something enormous happens. … That led you to its successor and how it’s completely different. This [film] is all about movement. When you read it, they were always in motion. That must be because Steve was about that himself.

Sorkin: Steve loved having meetings walking around. Even in casting, an actor would come in, and Danny would talk to them about how this is a standing-up movie. And he’s right. … Now when someone sits down, it has a dramatic meaning.

Boyle: It sounds so puerile, the difference, but it’s actually fundamental to what you’re doing. Because then you know you’re going to be moving, and you know the equipment you need, and we got this Steadicam operator, Geoff Haley; he became like one of the players. You know, moving around the rooms with the actors — they would trust him.

'Steve Jobs' writer and director on avoiding the typical biopic

It always seems tough to end a story when it’s based on a real person. How did you go about attacking that final act — especially that final sequence between Jobs and Lisa?

Sorkin: I knew, again, because this wasn’t going to be a biopic, that this wouldn’t end with Steve dying, or going to the doctor, or anything like that. … Danny did something fantastic that I didn’t expect. Steve walks on stage at the end, flash bulbs are going off everywhere, and he looks back and winks at his daughter, and she’s looking at him. Those blue flashbulbs just begin to envelop him and he disappears. So Danny did make him die at the end.

Boyle: It’s not about the fame, and success and all that. And obviously, there’s an adoring public who remains faithful despite his death, because they remain addicted to him, his philosophy, his products and his company. But it was really about: She [Lisa] has lost her dad. So the [Steve Jobs] myth lives on … but for a girl, her dad’s gone. … We tried to make it feel like that — very personal. And she had clearly been very fundamental to Aaron’s writing. Her and Joanna, especially. We felt like we owed it to her, in some way.

[Image credits: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy]

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/10/sorkin-boyle-steve-jobs-interview/

‘Steve Jobs’ isn’t totally accurate, and that’s okay

'Steve Jobs' isn't totally accurate, and that's okay

Steve Jobs isn’t your typical biopic. That’s something we explored in our interview with its director, Danny Boyle, and writer, Aaron Sorkin. It’s more like a play set in three acts, each of which occurs right before a major product debut. And yet, it’s hard not to approach it as a biographical film — Jobs’ name is right there in the title; what else would you expect? So, it’s not too surprising to see the film being dismissed among some techies because it isn’t 100 percent accurate. Jobs didn’t really have life-changing conversations with his friends and family before these product announcements! Joanna Hoffman wasn’t even working at Apple when he launched the iMac! These are all facts worth bringing up — but focusing on those inaccuracies also misses the bigger picture.

Art doesn’t have to be accurate

Not to put Sorkin on too high a pedestal, but what he’s doing with Steve Jobs is no different than what William Shakespeare did with his many “historical plays.” Julius Caesar, for example was based on Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans — a series of biographies. Shakespeare condensed action to make things more dramatic, introduced characters that never existed and basically constructed the entire play around his dramatic vision. Similarly, Steve Jobs is a film that uses elements of Walter Isaacson’s biography, but takes plenty of liberties to tell a story about a genius and his contentious relationships with his daughter and the people around him.

Really, it’s hard not to see Jobs as a Shakespearean character in the film. He’s a man with a singular vision of how computing will change the world, and the willpower to make it happen. And yet he’s not able to admit that Lisa Brennan-Jobs is actually his daughter, even though a paternity test made that indisputable. How do you reconcile those two sides of his personality? You can do that by exploring the facts, as documentarian Alex Gibney did with Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Or you can show how Jobs matures from a hotheaded guy that’s too smart for his own good, to someone a bit older and a bit wiser, as Sorkin and Boyle did.

Michael Fassbender’s casting also makes sense — he doesn’t really look like Jobs at all, but that’s also a reminder of the artifice of the film. We know we’re not really looking at someone trying to be Jobs; we’re instead exploring the idea of Jobs.

'Steve Jobs' isn't totally accurate, and that's okay

There’s plenty of truth in the film

On top of using Isaacson’s biography, which was approved by Jobs (even though it didn’t always paint him in the best light), Sorkin also talked with most of the people featured in the film. That includes former Apple CEO John Sculley, who’s most famous for firing Jobs (and who has worked hard to stay out of the limelight for the past few decades); and Joanna Hoffman, the marketing executive who was a part of the original Macintosh team and was among the closest people to Jobs. And of course, Steve Wozniak had plenty to say, as well. The lead actors also had a chance to meet their real-life counterparts, which added a bit more nuance to their roles.

All of that context grounds the relationships in the film, even if the film itself presents a bit of a heightened reality. Sculley, for example, is seen as a father-figure for Jobs, which makes his ultimate betrayal all the more heartbreaking (even though Jobs basically forced his hand). Hoffman, meanwhile, is Jobs’ rock. When she pushes for him to accept Brennan-Jobs as his own, you can feel the weight of years of friendship behind it. Wozniak and former Mac engineer Andy Hertzfeld end up serving as moral foils. Woz wants Jobs to acknowledge the employees he’s trampled on, and Hertzfeld serves as a sort of surrogate father to Brennan-Jobs when she needs help the most.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs actually participated in the film

Jobs’ eldest daughter, Brennan-Jobs (her name was changed when she was nine), also agreed to talk with Sorkin about the film. That’s particularly surprising because she didn’t even talk to Isaacson for Jobs’ official biography. As Sorkin tells it, their conversation allowed him to see the humanity behind a man who refused to accept his child.

“I’ll be honest, it was very difficult for me to initially get past Steve’s treatment of his daughter,” he said in our interview. “I thought … the story kind of stops there for me. I don’t care what’s past that. I never said that to Lisa, but Lisa helped me past that. She would tell stories about her father that weren’t necessarily the most flattering stories, but she would always, at the end of it, kind of point and say, ‘See? He really loved me because of this.’ And that was very helpful.”

Though plenty has been written about Jobs over the years, Brennan-Jobs’ experience hasn’t really factored into much of that. It’s refreshing to see her perspective as part of a Steve Jobs story, for once, even if it isn’t completely true to life.

[Photo credits: Universal Pictures]

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/23/steve-jobs-film-accuracy/

New York’s Attorney General probing state broadband speeds

New York's Attorney General probing state broadband speeds

For an industry obsessed with accuracy, it seems hilarious that the broadband speeds that you pay for are so vague and ill-defined in reality. It’s a situation that has angered New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (pictured), so he’s launching a statewide probe into users internet speeds. Reuters is reporting that the official is targeting the state’s big three providers, Verizon, Cablevision and Time Warner to see if, as he says, “many of us may be paying for one thing and getting another.” The three firms have all been sent letters asking them to provide all disclosures made to customers about speed, as well as the details of any internal testing that they carry out.

Schneiderman isn’t just focused on the advertised speeds, but also on the interconnection arrangements that enable ISPs to share data with each other. It could be that while firms are happy to maintain speedy services between homes and their servers, they’re less excited about ensuring good service further down the chain.

Two of the three named companies have already issued statements saying that they’re not short-changing their customers. Time Warner told reporters that its conscience was clear, while Cablevision boasts that its service is faster than the speeds it delivers to users.

Verizon, meanwhile, has yet to issue a public statement on the matter, telling Reuters that it had yet to receive Schneiderman’s letter. It’s not surprising that Big Red would be reticent to speak on the subject, since it’s already had run-ins with New York-based officials about the state of its FiOS rollout. Still, it looks as if everyone in the state will soon become more obsessed with Speedtest.net than they ever were before.

[Image Credit: Getty]

*Verizon has acquired AOL, Engadget’s parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/26/new-york-ag-broadband-speeds/

New York governor wants statewide 100Mbps internet by 2019

New York governor wants statewide 100Mbps internet by 2019

With a $1 billion plan, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes to have every New Yorker hooked up to high-speed internet by 2019. The administration is billing it as the largest state investment in universal broadband in the country. Just how fast are we talking, here? In most cases, the program calls for providers to offer at least 100 Mbps, or as Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot described it at a press conference, “more than 10 times the federal definition of ‘broadband.'”

The plan, known as the New New York Broadband Program (yes, that is two “News”) would include $500 million in capital funds (taken from recent bank settlements). The state wants those funds to serve as an incentive for private companies by offering 1:1 financial matching for broadband providers willing to invest their own money — hence the $1 billion total size. The program is part of Cuomo’s 2015 State of Opportunity Agenda and although those matching funds call for providers to offer at 100 Mbps speeds in most cases, it does allow for as low as 25Mbps in extremely remote areas of the state.

New York governor wants statewide 100Mbps internet by 2019

According to Ookla’s Net Index Explorer, New York ranks third in the US with an average broadband speed of around 39 Mbps. However, stats from the state’s Broadband Program Office show that large swaths of the population lacked broadband access as recently as July 2014. In Greene County, for instance, the office estimates 91 percent of the county’s 50,000 residents lack access to 100Mbps broadband — and 79 percent can’t even muster 6Mbps. While it’s obviously very early days for the program, Cuomo’s office seems mighty bullish about its potential, even with the not-so-far-off January 1st, 2019 deadline. “At the end of the next four years,” New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “you’ll see that every business in this community, in this state, is connected and will have the fastest-speed broadband of any state in the nation.”

[Image credits: Bloomberg via Getty Images, New York State]

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/01/18/new-york-broadband/

New York attorney general fights rule that curbs services like Uber

New York attorney general fights rule that curbs services like Uber

New York City isn’t always kind to ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber, but those companies have just gained an important ally. BuzzFeed News has learned that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a letter to NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) opposing rules that would limit firms to dispatching exclusively affiliated drivers unless they strike deals with rivals. To Schneiderman, that creates “serious antitrust issues.” Companies would frequently have to collude with each other to grow, and the rule would favor well-financed outlets that can lure drivers away, such as Uber. Instead, the official suggests an approach where transporters can affiliate with any company that shares the same worker’s compensation system.

The Commission hasn’t publicly responded to the objection, although it delayed a vote on the rule after receiving a flood of negative comments. At a minimum, it’s aware that this isn’t a popular idea. It’s clear that Uber is on the Attorney General’s side, though — while it might see some benefits if the measure passes, it’s concerned that it would lose as many as 3,000 part-time drivers that would be forced to choose a single outfit. Schneiderman’s letter isn’t binding by any means, but there’s no doubt that the TLC is now under a lot of pressure to rethink its strategy.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2014/11/10/ny-attorney-general-fights-transportation-rule/

See how InVisage’s HDR sensor will improve smartphone filmmaking

See how InVisage's HDR sensor will improve smartphone filmmaking

It’s been over five years since we heard from InVisage, a company developing a new kind of smartphone sensor with higher dynamic range and zero rolling shutter. It just produced a short film called Prix using a prototype chip to show exactly how the tech works. As a reminder, InVisage developed a photosensitive nano-coating it calls QuantumFilm that works differently than silicon. It claims that the material has “higher photosensitivity and electron sensitivity per pixel,” which makes it react more like film than a typical CMOS sensor. It’s also fast enough to instantly switch on and off, allowing the use of a global instead of a rolling shutter.

InVisage filmed in challenging, bright sunlight conditions to test the dynamic range, and shot fast moving subjects (RC race cars) to show off the global shutter. The resulting footage (below) is surprisingly cinematic, considering that the sensor is smartphone sized. (It’s also a bit soft, which the company chalked up to the sensor being an early prototype.) The tech looks intriguing, though the level of hype in the press release and making-of film is a bit over-the-top. Still, if it can be refined further — perhaps by a sensor company like Sony — it could result in strikingly better smartphone and camera images in the not-too-distant future.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/26/invisage-hdr-smartphone-sensor/

InVisage envisions a world where cell phone cameras don’t suck, embraces quantum dots

InVisage envisions a world where cell phone cameras don't suck, embraces quantum dots

The invention of nanocrystal semiconductors — more commonly called quantum dots — has spurred scientists to create everything from precisely-colored LED lamps to higher-density flash memory. There’s also been some talk of applying a solution of the tiny crystals to create higher sensitivity cameras, and according to a company named InVisage, that latter utility is almost ready for commercial production. By smearing light-amplifying quantum dots onto the existing CMOS sensors used in cell phone cameras like so much strawberry jam, InVisage claims it will offer smartphone sensors that have four times the performance and twice the dynamic range of existing chips by the end of the year, and roll out the conveyor belts in late 2011, just in time for the contract to end on your terrible new cameraphone.

[Thanks, Matt]

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/23/invisage-envisions-a-world-where-cell-phone-cameras-dont/

Harvard creates a material that lets light go ‘infinitely fast’

Harvard creates a material that lets light go 'infinitely fast'

Researchers at Harvard University announced recently that they had successfully developed a means of manipulating light at the nanoscale, which could lead to photonic-based (rather than electronic) telecommunications. Think, ubiquitous fiber optics. The team reportedly developed an on-chip metamaterial made from silicon pillars embedded in polymer and wrapped in gold film that exhibits a refractive index of zero. In English, that means that the phase of light passing through this material can travel infinitely fast without violating the known laws of physics.

See, the light passing through this metamaterial is still moving at 299,792,458 m/s and is still the fastest thing in the universe. However, light’s speed can also be measured by its “phase velocity,” the speed at which light’s wavelength crests are moving. Basically phase velocity measures how much a wavelength of light is condensed or elongated as it travels through a material. If you shine a light at water, for example, light gets “squished” slightly because the liquid environment is more dense than atmosphere. Conversely, if you shine a light from the bottom of a swimming pool, the wavelength elongates once it hits the surface. As such, it has a refraction index of 1.3.

Now when you have a material like this with a refractive index of 0, things get weird. As light passes through it, the crests and troughs stretch infinitely to create a flat line where oscillations occur as a factor of time, not space. Flattening the wavelength allows the light to be easily manipulated without losing energy. The industrial potential — from telecommunications to quantum computing — is nearly limitless.

“In quantum optics, the lack of phase advance would allow quantum emitters in a zero-index cavity or waveguide to emit photons which are always in phase with one another,” said Philip Munoz, a graduate student in the Mazur lab and co-author on the paper. “It could also improve entanglement between quantum bits, as incoming waves of light are effectively spread out and infinitely long, enabling even distant particles to be entangled.” There’s no word yet, however, as to when this revolutionary technology will make it out of the lab.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/22/harvard-creates-a-material-that-lets-light-go-infinitely-fast/

This new carbon nanotube material is the darkest thing on the planet

This new carbon nanotube material is the darkest thing on the planet

We know what darkness is: it’s the absence of light, and something we each encounter when the sun goes down. Seeing darkness in broad daylight on the other hand, that’s weird. It’s also, astonishingly, a completely possible thing. Sitting on a piece of aluminum foil in Surrey NanoSystems’ lab is something called Vantablack — a low-temperature carbon nanotube material that absorbs 99.96% of all light that touches it. It’s effectively the darkest material on the planet, and anything draped in becomes non-reflective, losing any and all surface detail. So, what’s the point? This new ultra dark material uses a low-temperature process, which allows it to be applied to things like stealth vehicles or telescopes, allowing them to avoid detection or see farther, respectively. The firm says it’s scaling up production for customers in the defense and space sectors. The company says it’s already delivered its first orders, and says its working on an even darker version of Vantablack. Well, here’s to a darker future.

[Image credit: Surrey NanoSystems]

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/15/the-darkest-thing-on-the-planet/

Comedians Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx will return as holograms

Comedians Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx will return as holograms

Holographic (really, “Pepper’s Ghost”) versions of dead musicians have proven successful, so why not comedians from days gone by? Hologram USA doesn’t think that’s a bad idea, at least. The tech firm has revealed that it’s producing visual resurrections of legendary comedians Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx that will go on tour in 2016. Hologram USA says the estates of both celebs are collaborating to make this an “authentic experience,” although it’s not clear exactly what that means.

The experiment with comedians could prove challenging. Whether or not you believe it’s respectful to revive any entertainer as a hologram, comedy has challenges that aren’t present in music. After all, many good comedians react to their audiences — a hologram might not. Will virtual Kaufman know when to break the uncomfortable silence? Will Foxx know when to push your buttons? These recreations may still be welcome blasts from the past, but something tells us that a prerecorded comedy routine won’t be as convincing as a concert.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/25/andy-kaufman-and-redd-foxx-holograms/