Sam Esmail is a film director.
• Joel Potrykus (Joel Potrykus is an American film director and screenwriter. His feature film debut Ape won the B...)
• Gregg Araki (Gregg Araki is an American independent filmmaker. He is involved in New Queer Cinema.)
• Peter Bogdanovich (Peter Bogdanovich is an American film historian, director, writer, actor, producer and critic. He...)» All Film director Interviews
I wanted to finally bring cyberpunk to TV.
MR. ROBOT airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on USA Network.
Victoria's helping me out tonight.
Thank you all for your great questions. I hope you like the show as we go into further episodes. I would love to come back here and answer more questions you might have.
Hi Sam! Thanks for doing this AMA and kudos on the early success of Mr. Robot. The pilot is easily one of the best I've seen in years. Excited for what's yet to come.
Rami Malek said you hate his ad-libbing on set. Is that true, and if so, why? Is it terrible or just not "on the message", so to speak?
It's pretty true.
I have a very specific vision for the show and try to stay as true to it as possible.
However, I always listen if someone comes up with a different take on a line, and we use it, because my motto is "whatever is the best idea wins" no matter who pitches it. And I think Rami is a little sensitive sometimes.
First of like the show! Who ever wrote the line explaining the root kit is awesome.
Is it true they already green light a season two?
It is true. And we're all very excited about it.
First of all, thanks for doing this AMA.
For my question, Eliott's social anxiety is portrayed extremely well, form the "no touching" rule to the general feeling that random strangers are watching. As someone who does feel uncomfortable in crowds, I've actually pointed to the pilot as a good example of what it's like for me. How did you achieve this? Do you have a consultant on staff with experience with these things?
Well, that consultant would be me.
I am very familiar. I'm like the Picasso of social anxiety. But we also have a psychologist as a consultant on-staff who we talk to as well.
First I want to say that I love the show more than any show I've seen in recent memory. You portrayed he hacking culture perfectly, which you're right, it has been very, very poorly portrayed. Anyway, my question is, is it a coincidence that Evil Corp's Logo looks like Enron's?
It is not.
It seems like there's a lot of influence from David Fincher, Specifically fight club, is that intentional? Also, the music is awesome. How much say did you have in the soundtrack?
I'm completely all over the soundtrack.
Music is incredibly important to me.
And we really wanted to created a special tone for the show with music, which was composed by the great Mac Quayle.
FIGHT CLUB is one of my favorite films of all time. And it is among one of many inspiration for the show.
I'll invite you to defcon! Come hang out with me and I'll show you around
I stumbled upon your show the other day and really loved it. I could really relate to you lead character. I too am in the InfoSec industry. I would love to know what inspired you to write about this topic? Also how did you go about researching the cyber security topic? I have to admit that I am not normally impressed with shows on InfoSec, as most fail, but your show really struck a chord with me.
Look, I've been disappointed with what's been out there that's trying to represent this culture, and they are completely off the mark. And I wanted to do something more true to life. Personally, I happen to be fascinated by the real people in technology and hacking culture, and I felt they deserved a good story.
Do you or have you ever frequented 4chan?
And my brother would like to ask, are there any characters on MR. ROBOT that are based off people you know?
You know what? No. I have a mild curiosity for 4chan, but I have not spent a lot of time there, though.
Well, I would say that Elliot is definitely loosely based off of me.
Love the show!
The ideas presented in Mr. Robot seem like a pretty ballsy thing to put on TV right now, with its harsh criticisms of corporate America. Yet, there's plenty of corporate branding going on in the background. Is that on purpose? Did you face much resistance getting a show with these kinds of messages on TV?
Thanks for doing this. That pilot was amazing, and I can't wait to see more!
First of all, thank you for support, and I hope you continue watching and liking the show.
I feel like if you bring anything that could make money to television, they'll gladly take it.
In terms of putting the real brands in the show, that is all intentional. I try and stay away from faking logos or brands, and try to use the real authentic thing. That is a part of our world. Branding is in fact a huge aspect of our lifestyle right now, and I wanted to make sure that was reflected in the show.
Was there any backlash from USA about your episode titles? I mean, "eps1.0_hellofriend.mov" and "eps.1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg" are great, but not exactly user friendly. And are there enough file type extensions to last two seasons?
I think we'll definitely re-use the file extensions.
But I think the way we did the titles, and the way we do our episode descriptions, are awesome and cool and special to the show.
That's just my personal opinion.
Are planning on attending DefCon or BlackHat? Would love to hear you speak at length about your vision of the show, etc!
Because I'm not a real hacker (or even remotely skillful at programming) I would find it offensive to go to DefCon. I would feel too much like a poser. However, if I was invited, I would of course love to go.
Thanks for your time sir! A final question,
Did you think Mr. Robot would get the love and recognition it has received after only one episode?
Ipconfig or ifconfig?
I go ifconfig.
it looks like you build some scenes on the soundtrack. is it true?
i mean, these are brilliantly completing each other.
I absolutely think about music when I write, when I shoot, and when I edit anything. I think it's that important to the film. In fact, Neil Diamond was written into the original draft of the pilot, and it survived all the way to the making and release of the pilot. Which is a rare feat.
Wouldn't it be so much cooler if Mr. Robot had ZERO internet presence?
I 100% agree.
hi! loving the show! I had a question on Elliot's character, it was mentioned in passing that elliot thought himself as schizo. is elliot canonically schizophrenic or any form of mentally ill? will we be seeing more of it through out the season?
In the interests of keeping everything spoiler-free, I will just say: he definitely believes he might be schizophrenic.
Hi Sam! Do you have general Idea of how many seasons you'd like to have or are you just gonna go with the flow and see where it leads?
What was your main inspiration for Elliot and/or the show itself?
Are you a techie or do you just find it interesting?
Would you consider an interview for my Mr. Robot podcast, Automatic For the People?
Probably going with four seasons, max five.
My main inspiration for the show and Elliot is a combination of 3 events:
I am unfortunately not as skilled as I'd like to be in technology. But I am obsessed with it.
And I'd love to, if the timing works out. Right now we're in the middle of filming. Maybe when we wrap.
do you have control over the promos cut for the show or does the network handle that mostly -- is it possible to create promos composed of scenes that don't appear in the show and use that to mislead the audience for a bigger surprise?
I do not have any control in that department.
Where did you get the idea for Mr Robot from?
I would say that I've always felt frustrated about how poorly represented technology and hacking was in film and television. And I always wanted to do my own version. So it came out of my passion for telling a story about hacking and technology, and my frustration with all the current movies and television shows about the subject.
i ask as a middle-easterner. do you have any connections with middle-east?
i suspected that because both you and rami have arabic originated names. and including "kor adana" (i suppose that is turkish)
Kor is Turkish, I believe. But Rami and I are both Egyptian. I was born in New Jersey, and I believe Rami was born somewhere in the States, but we're both first generation.
What influences did you have in creating the sci-fi universe of the show? I'm a huge fan of Gibson and cyberpunk world building myself so I was wondering how it has kept up with the ever changing techno - culture climate
I actually did not have a lot of influence from fiction. It was mostly from real hackers and programmers, just real life. Just people I interacted with throughout the years, that were in the programming and hacker culture that really inspired me.
The coding and computer knowledge is very refreshing. Are you the computer geek or do you have consultants?
I'd like to take credit for it. But I do have much smarter people than I as consultants. However, I am still very much a computer geek.
Are there any specific parts of Eliot that are based off you, if so what are they? Or is it more like a just in general type of thing?
Elliot is like the naive, young, angry, stupid, just way more brilliant, awkward version of me.
Haha, interesting. Thanks for being honest. How long has this show been something you've been sitting on or working on? How easy or difficult was the path to getting your writing onto national television?
Making anything in film and television is incredibly difficult, because it's incredibly expensive.
So unless you have money, it's going to be hard for you to convince someone to spend any on your little script.
And to answer your first question, I probably wrote the pilot in a few months and then two years later was able to make it.
Which is incredibly fast. I must admit, I got really lucky.
What was the biggest obstacle to overcome in getting this show on the air?
I'd say everything was an obstacle.
It's a pretty crazy thing we're pulling off, and it's a crazy thing for anybody to air, because of radical ideas we throw out there in the show.
Holy shit first episode of MR ROBOT blew my mind. Cool you put it on Youtube ans that is on HBO kinda production level.
Question: who do you consult about the amazing tech accuracy your show has? As a tech guy myself, I've been amazed with the accuracy of everything from hardware down to software stuff. Cheers and keep up the awesome work!
We have a number of technical consultants. One onset who actually is a really smart guy who started off as my assistant, Kor Adana, I wanna name drop him. We also have another tech advisor, who is from the FBI cybercrime division.
What's your favorite cereal?
Oooh, that's a good question.
I'd have to go with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Wow this is awesome. I've actually never heard of your show. I'm sure you've gone through your fair share of pitches to producers and TV stations, but in your own words would you mind explaining it to me? The 45 second trailer you linked was a bit vague and j think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear what the show's actual creator has to say
Well, here's my answer, which is:
I've always been terrible at pitching. I actually didn't pitch MR. ROBOT. In fact, I wrote it to avoid pitching the show.
So if you wanna know what the show is about, just watch the pilot.
It's going to be much better than me just sitting here describing it to you.
What's the influence of the design of the mask in the previews of the 2nd episode?
Here's what I will answer: I wanted them to lampoon their nemesis, which is the "evil billionaire."
Hi sam I loved the pilot and have seen it a rather ridiculous amount of times.
My questions is about whether you had any direct influence or if you feel the show serves as spiritual sucessor to anything?
Personally it reminded me of cory doctorow's little brother which I also loved.
Oh, and kudos on not going the technobabble route
Okay. Thank you.
I would say that spiritually, it is a successor to all the nerds and techies I grew up being best friends with.
do you have any kind of depression or anxiety disorder?
that's all, thanks.
I was diagnosed with OCD when I was younger. And I was also diagnosed with social anxiety disorder later on in my life.
I just wanted to say that I loved the pilot of Mr Robot but most of all I absolutely adored your film "Comet" from last year. The cinematography, lighting, and plot structure were all hypnotically beautiful and the heart rang true. Now I know my question isn't about the new show but I just wanted to know, as an incoming film student, how difficult the process was getting Comet off the ground and what struggles you encountered while making the film? Also, any plans to do another feature anytime soon?
Making a feature film out of film school is the biggest pain in the ass in the world.
Unless you have a lot of money, it's really challenging.
I do plan on making a feature film, hopefully within the next year or two.
are you at all concerned about national security threats?
Of course. Who isn't?
What made you change from a movie format to the television format?
Well, nothing really made me change, other than the fact that when I started writing MR. ROBOT, which I started writing initially as a feature, I was either too long-winded, or the story was just too big for a film. And I wound up turning it into a TV show just by sheer length.
Is this your favorite of all the work you've done so far?
I've only done two things. And I don't want to disrespect COMET.
So I'll say it's a tie for now.
Hello, Sam! Loved the pilot, looking forward to seeing where it all goes. My question is unrelated to anything; I need some new tunes, so I'm asking anyone I can. What songs would you choose as the soundtrack if you were:
Having a clandestine meeting on a Ferris wheel?
Being pursued on the subway by shadowy assailants?
Saving the day through the power of hacking?
Seducing Angela and getting her to love you, like she GODDAMN BETTER.
"Where Is My Mind" by the Pixies.
hi! so in love with the show.
is there going to be any big consequences for elliot down the line? i read in the character bio that he was arrested once... anything as serious as that happening?
I think great drama always lends itself to great consequences.
What did you think about the Mr. Robot twitch E3 hack?(
My favorite part is always reading the comments.
Even the trolls.
It's always fun and entertaining for me.
But I thought the twitch hack was really fun and cool. And I love twitch so I'm glad we got to be a part of it.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a new form of currency, specifically "cryptocurrency."
What made you want to create a show like this?
Just my passion to portray my nerdy techie friends who I grew up with in authentic and realistic way.
How would someone get started in the industry(trying to do what you do)?
I think you have to make some noise.
Whether it's a short film, a script, a blog, a video, you have to do something that really grabs peoples' attention and really makes some noise.
And do you own any BTC?
I don't own any bitcoin.
I don't think I'm cool enough to own any bitcoin.
I've avoided all previews and trailers for this show. Why should I watch it over other shows?
I'd say because Rami Malek gives a breathtaking, amazing performance. And if you're a Christian Slater fan (from Pump up the Volume, Heathers, True Romance) you'll want to take a look at his performance in MR. ROBOT.