Five questions with: Writer/Director Brian Koppelman
Each week during the NFL season, Ben Standig will pose questions to an NFL Insider, team blogger, fantasy football analyst or pigskin enthusiast. This time writer, director, producer - and New York Jets fan Brian Koppelman.
Those quotable lines from the film "Rounders" you love repeating, that's Koppelman's work along with his writing partner David Levien. The writing pair behind "Ocean's 13" and "Runner Runner" also wrote and directed the upcoming ESPN 30-for-30 documentary, "This Is What They Want" about Jimmy Connors epic run during the 1991 U.S. Open. Koppelman is also a must follow on Twitter (@briankoppelman) especially for those interested in screenwriting or looking to bond over the latest round frustration involving the Jets or Knicks.
(Before we go any further, this is where I'm told to post a Parental Advisory for language. No, Sanchez is not the bad word.)
1) Ben Standig, FFToolbox: The Jets are one of those teams where fans describe themselves as long-suffering. In that context, how are we feeling about 2013?
Brian Koppelman: Well, we ain't feeling great. Are we? Look. I've been a Jets fan for a very long time. Although, truth be told, I don't hate the Giants. So usually, when the Jets play like...well, when they play like the Jets, I can sort of distract myself with the football Giants. Can't get any solace from the Giants this season though. (I do NOT do that with the Knicks, btw. When the Knicks stink, "I don't root for anyone else, it ruins the season for me and gives me sleepless nights. The Jets give me sleepless nights too, but fewer and only toward the end of the season).
2) FFToolbox: Nobody is (or should) judge Geno Smith on six games, but instinctively how do you assess his start, his promise compared to other signal callers in Jets history?
Koppelman: I'm a fan. Of anyone not named Sanchez playing for this team. Beyond that, I like how Geno has had long stretches of confident, controlled play, how comfortable he can look in the pocket, and I like his arm strength. Hopefully Rex won't fuck him up. Which brings us to...
3) FFToolbox: Rex Ryan. The floor is yours.
Koppelman: Look. He'd have been one of the all time great pro wresting managers. And not the cheap shot kind, the kind who'd have his guy's back and rush into the ring to kick the opponent off his man only to wind up kicked in the gut, crashing into the turntable and stumbling over the top rope.
He'd also, judging by this season, send his guy in against huge, fast guys who are able to hide foreign objects from the ref and then, at just the right moment, make the ref think Rex's wrestler brought the hammer into the squared circle.
Not sure that Rex has lost the team (I don't think he has), but I do think he has lost the city. No one I talk to has any faith in the possibility that he can find his way to the Super Bowl coaching the Jets.
4) FFToolbox: Your "six-second screenwriting lessons" videos have quickly become a Twitter staple thanks to your straight-forward advice while also receiving positive attention from traditional media sources. Obvious question: What was the impetus behind making these videos?
Koppelman: I have a real problem with people holding themselves out as experts without credentials*, without accomplishment. And I noticed that there were some self styled screenwriting gurus out there slinging bullshit. So I said that. And then I realized I had more to say. Almost instantly the writing community online asked me to keep going. So I have. My one rule for a Vine is that it has to be something I truly believe, that I'd tell my kids if they wanted to be writers.
4a) FFToolbox: If you made a six-second video worth advice for J-E-T-S, what would you say?
Koppelman: C'mon! Hold onto the fucking ball! Don't throw it to him! Don't HOOOOOLLLLD. Stay onside! I don't think it would be as productive as the screenwriting Vines. I care in a different way.
5) FFToolbox: Whether I love every "30-for-30" documentary on ESPN or not (though many receive two thumbs up), I love the idea of focusing on these moments-in-time events that are not just about the Super Bowl or Michael Jordan. Case in point, you directed the upcoming "This Is What They Want" film about Jimmy Connors' emotionally charged run during the 1991 U.S. Open. Without question I recall Connors' overnight rally against Aaron Krickstein as vividly as any tennis match I've watched. Of all the possible sporting moments available, what drew you and your directing partner David Levien to Connors and this specific time?
Koppelman: The decision to do a 30 for 30 on Jimmy Connors was instinctive. I was emailing one day with Bill Simmons from an LA bound plane. I mean, I was on a plane, Bill was, I assume, in the sports guy mansion or something, and he asked if Levien and I had thought about doing a 30 for 30. We love the series, love Grantland, really love all things Simmons (maybe not that cartoon he did for a little while on the old site, but everything else). So we immediately said yes. Simmons asked what we'd do.
I turned to David who was next to me and we both kind of said: Connors. 1991 Open. I emailed it to Bill. He said, do it. We went in the next week and met with Connor Schell and Dan Silver at ESPN and all saw it the exact same way. Shook hands and away we went.
Growing up on Long Island, The Open was our event. I worked there as a kid and Levien would come hang out with me there frequently. And for a long while, Jimmy Connors kind of defined the place. Connors remains the grittiest, hardest working player I have ever seen. And, personality wise, could've brung it in the NFL, ya know? With linemen.
The match he played with Krickstein is one of the great sporting contests of my lifetime. And with This Is What They Want, David and I tried to bring the viewer all the way inside of Aaron and Jimmy's mindset and approach.
Please watch on October 29th. Hope you dig it.
(*) Since there was a mention of experts/credentials, this is a good time to remind folks that FFToolbox finished with the most accurate draft rankings in 2012. Click here for our Week 7 rankings - and be sure to click your television over to ESPN on October 29th for "This Is What They Want."