Today on the show we have one-half of the writing team that wrote the record-breaking Marvel film Spider-Man: No Way Home, Erik Sommers.
For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero’s identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.
In addition Sommers co-wrote scripts for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lego Batman Movie and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with Chris McKenna. Erik started his career in television and wrote on the ground-breaking show Community under show runner Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty).
Erik tells me how working with Dan changed how he wrote and how he uses Dan Harmon’s Story Circle in his writing today.
We discuss how he got the Spider-man gig, how he writes with his partner Chris, what it’s like working inside the Marvel Studios machine and dealing with the pressure of writing Spider-Man.
I watched the new Spider-Man and I have to say it’s the best Spider-Man film yet. Get ready to have your nostalgia heart-strings pulled in the best way possible. Erik and Chris did a fantastic job writing the stand-alone film, while still weaving in the larger MCU narrative, not an easy thing to do.
Enjoy my conversation with Erik Sommers.
Right-click here to download the MP3
Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show Erik Sommers. How're you doing, Erik?
Erik Sommers 0:14
I'm fine. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show, man. I've been watching your films for quite some time and stuff you've been writing. I'm a huge community fan, as well. So we're gonna I definitely want to get into the weeds a little bit about how, how that basically, I'm going to go down the rabbit hole in your career, you and Chris's career. Now Chris McKenna, your partner is supposed to be coming in, we're having some technical issues we're gonna get we're gonna start because I use Skype because I'm, I'm back in 1997. And again, MySpace is going to be huge. When we post it there. So if Chris gets back on we'll, we'll bring him in. If not, we'll finish it off with you, sir. But first and foremost, man, how did you start in the business?
Erik Sommers 1:00
Um, I was in college, I was on my way to law school, probably. And just had one of those things where you know, college can be great because you, it helps you sort of get away from your folks and where you grew up and all this stuff and just realize, like, Wait, do I really want to do those things? Or do I just did I just think I want to do those things. And I just senior year realized I don't want to go to law school. And I took my, my college had one film class, it was not it was just an appreciation class, we watched the bicycle thief and racing cane. And I had always loved movies and TV, I had always thought about writing. And I took that class. And it was like, my last semester, and I just decided, that's what I'm going to do. And so I gave my mother the phone call, Every mother wants to get mom going decided not to go to law school. I think I want to go to Hollywood and try to make movies
Alex Ferrari 1:56
As a writer, as a writer,
Erik Sommers 1:58
As a writer, the most respected in the feature business or the writer. So I messed around for a few years before I finally got out here, but I literally clean it was a cliche I had, I had a beat up car and I had all my stuff in it. And I drove out here
Alex Ferrari 2:15
Really? not knowing a soul not knowing a soul.
Erik Sommers 2:18
Luckily, my father lived in Orange County at the time, so I stayed with him for a little while until I could get a place up here and but then I but that was it. I had to get a job. And I I didn't know how to type. I didn't know what about screenplay format. I didn't I so I started taking night classes at UCLA, screenwriting one on one. And eventually I got a job as an assistant on a TV show. And then that really changed everything because I was around the process and around writers and so I was working as assistant and writing on my own and you know, eventually trying to get jokes into the show and become a writer's assistant and sit in the room with the writers and all these things. And within a couple years I you know, I just a lot of hard work and hustling, but I managed to get my first job writing on a TV show. And so I did that for 15 years about
Alex Ferrari 3:09
Which show was that which which is, which is that first show.
Erik Sommers 3:12
Gosh, my first show was called Three south and it was on MTV created by the wonderful Mark hintermann. And it was on about the same time that Clone High was on which was created by our by our friends, Phil and Chris. Yeah. Ben Miller. Yeah, very long time ago.
Alex Ferrari 3:33
Now, when you were, you know, when you got that job in the writers room, and you started becoming a writer's assistant, what was uh, what was some of those lessons? What was like the biggest lesson you learned from the other writers that you might have not learned at school? Like, you know, the, the street level stuff?
Erik Sommers 3:50
That's a good question. I mean, first of all, I learned everything in there. I mean, I, I took a few classes, extension classes, and they were great, no knock against them. But just being in a writers room with a group of funny, talented people and watching them just break story after story after story, just watching them do it. You know, I mean, this was a, I think I was on a network show, I think and it was like 22 episodes. I mean, it's a lot of stories to break. And just seeing it done over and over again, at a high pace. I learned everything, being a writer's assistant. And, and then, you know, some of the writers were very, very good to me and took me under their wing and showed me, you know, I think one of the most valuable lessons one of the writers showed me like, this is my first draft, if you'll notice, it's not good. And he said, I just had to get it out, and then I'll go through it again. I'll rewrite it and rewrite it. It's okay to just just churn out something that's not the finished product don't get stuck. Just obsessing over it just like if you need to get it out. Just get it out. You can go back through it and I mean, I think I thought it was supposed to be You know, ready for primetime the minute it was on the page and and I realized, Oh, okay. And I think that really had a big effect on me that just knowing that you just just write it out, and you can rewrite it, go over it and over and over it. And don't be afraid to just get it out. I would.
Alex Ferrari 5:17
Yeah, that's, that's a big gray piece of advice, because so many writers, you know, think that that first draft has to be perfect. And they'll go back and rewrite the scene again, and rewrite the scene again and rewrite the scene. Again,
Erik Sommers 5:28
Don't do that. Don't go back, just just churn it out. And when you sit down the next morning, don't go back over what you wrote yesterday, just keep going, keep going. And then when you get through it, you can go through it all. Again, I would say the other big lesson you learn being in any writers room is just to have a thick skin, especially in East in a comedy writers room. Because a lot of really smart, funny people who just love to, to just bust each other's chops, I will say, because it's a family podcast. And you just get so much, so much criticism, usually in a hilarious format. And you just can't be precious about your work. And any writer who's in the room, especially on a comedy show, and is real precious and defensive about their work. Just the other writers don't, like, don't like that, you know, that's not playing well with others. And it's just not being it's not the fun writing staff kind of mentality you need to have you just, you work on it as a group, you get sent off, to do the outline, whatever you get sent off to write it on your own, you bring it back, they tear it to shreds, people, and it hurts because these are people you respect. But you just learned to get a thick skin. And I think that's become invaluable, because you just have to be able to take notes and listen to what people think of your stuff and just have no ego about it. And just think about it as objectively as possible.
Alex Ferrari 6:56
Yeah, I've heard I've spoken to many TV writers and showrunners on the show. And when they transfer over to features, or when they start working in features. They're much better prepared for collaboration, where someone a screenwriter who's just on features, gets that precious gets defensive. Like I can't take notes, like, but when you're getting your stuff shredded daily,
Erik Sommers 7:18
Right. I mean, I can't speak to the experience of coming up as a feature writer. And I imagine to me, it would seem very difficult and very solitary, I felt so lucky to have all these other writers around. But I can see where it would just be a completely different experience. And and, you know, so we found the same thing a lot of people would tell us, you know, early on when we were doing features like wow, you guys are just open to listening to us now and think well, who isn't? Who wouldn't? But you know, different strokes for different folks. And and the way you come up and get there is going to have a huge impact on how you take those notes.
Alex Ferrari 7:54
Now, how did you meet Chris? And how did you guys decide, hey, I think we're better together than apart.
Erik Sommers 8:01
We met on a show called American Dad. shoebox Yeah. And, and he was there before I was but we we met there and we became fast friends. I remember it was time for my first episode. And we were trying to come up with a story idea. And I was pitching all these ideas that were getting shot down because they weren't very good. And then Chris I think said like what if it's about finding Oliver North's lost gold from the Iran Contra affair, like turn it into some crazy thing. And I was like, that's insane. I love that. And then we ended up doing it. And that was my first episode of the show. And just immediately I was like, this guy gets me, you know. So we work together on that show as separate writing entities for a few seasons. And then he went off to community and I went off somewhere else did happy endings. And I think marry me was before that. And anyway, um, then we reconnected we always stayed friends. But then we reconnected for Jumanji.
Alex Ferrari 9:09
Now. So but did you guys work together on community?
Erik Sommers 9:13
Oh, sorry. Yeah, I skipped community. Yes. Yeah. Yes, he and Dan hired me for season five, which was Dan's first season back. He had been gone for one season, and then he came back. But then I saw I was there for season five. And that was great. And a lot of fun. And then I moved on to something else. And then they did the sixth season with Yahoo.
Alex Ferrari 9:40
And how did you end what what was like? I mean, I mean, damn, Heyman is like a Harmon is one of the like, you know, legendary. It's show runners at this point in the game. What are some things that you took away from that experience? Like what lessons did you learn working with him in that writers room?
Erik Sommers 9:57
Well, I mean, again, Let's see, one thing I really like about Dan is just just wanting to, he's a perfectionist, you know, like, he'll want to keep going over it and make it and I can relate to that. And so, you know, it's always nice to meet another perfectionist who's like, let's, let's go over it one more time. And that's not quite it, and I want to break it again. And I would say, his story circle, which you've never heard of maybe haven't heard was was really cool, you know, I had read the hero's journey, and I knew vaguely about that kind of thing, but just seeing how seriously he takes the circle. And, uh, it, it was really cool to just break story after story, like under a different system. You know, it was like, I guess a mathematician or something like switching types of math. There's, it's hard to explain, but it was like doing writing but in a different way. And it was really cool and fun to do it that way. And then I actually used his circle to break the story for a pilot that I wrote after that. And it was really cool to apply it to my own thing. And I still carry a lot of the lessons from that. I think one of the best things about his story circles that it really teaches you to pay attention to act to, and to keep things changing and act to and to make sure that characters attitudes change and things like that. And let's face it, that's where a lot of movies really just fall apart, because they just learned out and there's not enough going on, there's not enough change, there's not a and so I think Dan Harmon really taught me how to think about an act two, which has helped me in everything I've done since then,
Alex Ferrari 11:38
Now with, with writing with a partner, like how do you guys physically do it? Like, do you guys sit down and outline the project together? Do you like you write something and then send it over him? And he looks at over? Are you guys both writing different things and swapping it like how was the actual process of working with a partner,
Erik Sommers 11:57
A lot of just sending documents back and forth, or putting them up, you know, on the on the cloud, and like, check this out, and then just rewriting each other's stuff. And a lot of back and forth, a lot of texting, a lot of calls. And a lot of we're both, you know, have kids and busy lives. And so one thing that is really great about working in features is that if you're if you're just on a deadline, you know, as long as you get the work done, you can decide when you can create your own schedule and, and so we don't find ourselves together that often physically together. Sometimes we'll be together to break a story up on a whiteboard, or index cards or something like that. But even then, I think we've we've graduated to more of just like writing beats out and outlines and sending them to each other and just a lot of back and forth.
Alex Ferrari 12:46
Now, is there anything you wish you would have been told at the beginning of your career? If you can kind of go back in time and just go, Eric, man, this is if I can give you one nugget. This is the thing.
Erik Sommers 13:00
That was a good question. Save your money.
Alex Ferrari 13:05
Buy Apple Buy, buy this link called Netflix.
Erik Sommers 13:11
In two years, there's gonna be a freckle. Weird on your arm get it checked out, get immediate. Wait. That's funny, I think, um, gosh, I don't know, I feel like I had a lot of great writers and people really good to me and teach me a lot. And I'm really grateful for that. I wonder like, what is the one thing? I? I mean? That is a tough question.
Alex Ferrari 13:41
Yeah. Because I mean, a lot of times when we start off, you're like, I wish I could I could have just I would have gone back to myself and just said, it's going to take twice as long. It's going to be probably 10 times as hard as you think it's gonna be right. You know, and I'm sure like, because you're you're 20 you're like, next year, I should be writing Spider Man.
Erik Sommers 13:57
Yeah, yeah. I think write fast. Don't Don't dwell. I mean, I think I was telling you about the guy gave me his first draft. And I think even then it took me a long time to just to just get to a place of like, well just just write it out. Like don't sit there and think about it forever. And and, and if you have something that's not working, don't just obsess and stay working on it, be willing to give something up and step away, and just go work on something else, or try something else, do something else, maybe in a month, or working on a different script will give you some inspiration, and then you'll come back to this thing. And you'll realize, you know what, this was my problem. And I think early on, I had a few things that I just thought like, Oh, this is so good. This is this is my openness, this
Alex Ferrari 14:46
They will recognize my genius,
Erik Sommers 14:48
And I just have to keep rewriting it over and over and in the end of the day, I should have just like, Okay, you you did that you're done. Put it in the drawer and do another one. You're going to learn more by doing by writing Another one, then by just keeping working on this one over and over and over.
Alex Ferrari 15:04
Right! Exactly. Because you could only sand that wood so many times, you sometimes got to build out a new house,
Erik Sommers 15:10
There's something to be said for rewriting. And I'm a big fan of that. But at some point, you know, you just have to recognize and put it in the drawer and start working on the next thing. And you're gonna learn more by doing that.
Alex Ferrari 15:21
Now, it's so many so many writers that I've talked to, I always am fascinated with the creative process of writing of like, how you tap into that flow, that that creativity that we all kind of the Muse where, what how do you get the muse to show up for you, in your process? Do you just show up every day at a certain time? And just do the work? Or do you wait to be tickled fancy, like I always love asking writers with their processes.
Erik Sommers 15:47
Sure. And and I think, again, it has to do with the way that that I came up, I came up through TV, and in TV, you go to the office, every day, and at 10 o'clock, you start writing, and it doesn't matter if you're happy or sad or tired or what's going on, you're expected to be there. And you need to perform. And, and so there was no like news. Look, we all have good days and bad days, we all have days like that in any job. You know, but But ultimately, it was really just that training that just taught me to look at it as a job and work and like you just have to do it. It doesn't matter what's going on in your life. You're being paid. There's a deadline, you have to do it. And so that I've carried with me and and even to this day, yeah, no matter what's going on I, I have a routine and I come to my office here and and I just tried to get it done. And certainly, there are days where it's it's not going great. But I come and I try and
Alex Ferrari 16:51
See you're telling me that every day that you sit down to write, it's not genius that flows out of you. Is that what you're saying?
Erik Sommers 16:58
I and anyone who's ever worked with me will tell you that yes. 100% Yes.
Alex Ferrari 17:05
I forgot who said it is like if if writing is easy for you. You're not doing it right.
Erik Sommers 17:10
Alex Ferrari 17:12
I think it's very true.
Erik Sommers 17:14
I also know a bunch of writers. I know several writers who are very good, who hate writing. They're like, Oh, the worst part is when you have to write,
Alex Ferrari 17:21
But you're you're a writer.
Erik Sommers 17:24
But I'm grateful that I enjoy it. I love it. I love immersing myself. The only thing I love more than immersing myself into writing something is just sitting down on my butt and watching it. You know, watching something that's you know, just just real, but it's I just love sitting down and doing the work. And it is work.
Alex Ferrari 17:46
It is and a lot of people like oh, you're just typing on a keyboard. I'm like, But Nah, man, this is sitar anyone who's ever written a script. Knows. And by the way, most people listening have written a script without knowing that there's going to be 150 to $100 million budget, sitting on their shoulders, as writers or or leading a franchise or you know, or writing something that is beloved by you know, billions around the world. There's a tremendous amount of stress that comes along with that. I think you could speak to more so than
Erik Sommers 18:18
You're doing fine until you started saying
Alex Ferrari 18:21
I don't think I'll ever write again Alex thank you so that brings me to my next question. How did you increase land The Lego Movie about the Batman Lego Movie?
Erik Sommers 18:33
Lego Batman movie? Yeah, um, but I don't remember
Alex Ferrari 18:39
Was was that the first feature? Or no, you did other features.
Erik Sommers 18:42
The first one was Jumanji,
Alex Ferrari 18:43
Right! So Jumanji came out before Batman or you worked on.
Erik Sommers 18:48
I think the order in which they came out isn't saying that in the order in which we worked on them. Okay, but I think we worked on on Jumanji first then we worked on Lego Batman for a while and then we went over to I think the next one after that was was Spider Man homecoming.
Alex Ferrari 19:04
Alright, so then with Jumanji, how did you approach? How did you How did you land that job? You know, coming out of television? And then how do you approach board game as a script
Erik Sommers 19:17
That one Jumanji, I did the old fashioned way, which is to just be sitting there minding your own business and have a friend call you and say hey, I sold an idea for a new version of Jumanji, will you help me write it? And then I said yes. So that was Chris. I really earned that one.
Alex Ferrari 19:40
So Chris is the one who sold the idea.
Erik Sommers 19:42
Yeah, he had pitched them an idea and they bought it and then community was brought back for another season on Yahoo. And he knew he wanted to be doing that. And he had a deadline for Jumanji and it's just inhuman an impossible amount. have things to do in the amount of days. And so he asked me if I would help him write Jumanji. And I had only written one thing with a partner before I had just been a solo one man writing entity. And but we started writing, we had just had a great time. And and we had a great time doing it. And it was really great. And, you know, we did a couple of drafts of that. And then they moved on to some other writers, which is fine, that happens. And then I don't really recall exactly how we got involved with a Lego Batman. We do. We do know, Lord and Miller. And it might have been just that they needed someone to come in. And and they knew that we were doing features now. And there might have been something through the agents.
Alex Ferrari 20:52
Gotcha. But you got it in there.
Erik Sommers 20:54
As we were brought, we went over there. And it was already in process. And Chris McKay, the director, who was just a brilliant, brilliant, talented guy, was already, you know, plugging away and so we were happy to join that team and be a part of it. And I still love that. I love that movie. My kids love it. So, so
Alex Ferrari 21:14
So good. So how do you like with with a world like that as a writer, which is essentially infinite? You know, it's like the Lego world in the Batman Lego world is fairly infinite. How do you deal with that kind of like, just, you know, when you have so much to do, it almost kind of blocks you because like, I could go anywhere with this?
Erik Sommers 21:37
Absolutely. When you have a I can say in general, when you don't have any limitations it can it can be its own overwhelming limitation. And having having some limitations put on you can oftentimes be the best thing. As far as that specific movie. We were not the first writers and and so the previous writer and the whole creative team in general. And Chris McKay had had already figured all of that out for us so so that when I can tell you was easy, because I didn't have to.
Alex Ferrari 22:09
That's awesome. So then you get the call for Spider Man. And I got to ask you, when you got the call and said, Hey, man, you're going to write the new Spider Man, which is going to be the crossover between Marvel and Sony. And Iron Man is going to be in it and it's the brand new split the geek in you. I'm assuming there's a geek in you. What what was that? Like getting that phone call? Like you guys got it?
Erik Sommers 22:34
I mean, when I was a kid, I had Spider Man comics. I'm old. So I had the Spider Man doll that was like plastic and this big. Oh, yeah. It was like made of fabric.
Alex Ferrari 22:45
You don't look you don't look as old as I do, sir. And I was probably the same age if not older than you.
Erik Sommers 22:52
And I still remember that thing. It was such a strange accent.
Alex Ferrari 22:56
I remember it
Erik Sommers 23:01
But then his face was rubber was the rubber Spider Man. So like the costume was fabric cloth.
Alex Ferrari 23:09
It was it did nothing has no I mean no kung fu action
Erik Sommers 23:13
To to suddenly know that, that I was going to be writing. Spider Man was yeah, it was overwhelming thrill but also daunting. You know, just when I had gotten comfortable as a TV writer, you know, and moved over to features and then just now had a little feature work under my belt and was starting to feel more comfortable. And then boom, this thing comes along. And as you know, you're going to be working with Marvel and you're going to be working with Amy Pascal and and and, and this this venerable, Venerable hero that that is so beloved. And yeah, so it was intimidating but equal parts intimidating and exciting.
Alex Ferrari 23:55
And and when you I mean, because you had obviously Jumanji was a big hit and Batman. Lego Batman was a big hit. And then you got Spider Man. And then Spider Man was a huge hit. So I'm assuming at this point in time, you know, in town, you're getting offers, you know, you're getting offers, you know, people are like, Hey, you guys are magic. We want to be in the Chris and Eric business. Did anyone ever say that to you?
Erik Sommers 24:18
I know but I've always wished that someone would
Alex Ferrari 24:25
Say that to you.
Erik Sommers 24:28
It would be great to hear someone on ironically say that would be pretty amazing.
Alex Ferrari 24:36
That would be pretty it cuz you only see that in the movies you like I want to be
Erik Sommers 24:39
Absolutely. It's one of those things you wonder like Did someone it sounds like the kind of thing that maybe someone really did say yeah. And then people talked about it in a writer put it into their script, and then it got a life of its own. And now it's like the phrase that means that kind of intention. So who was the first one who really said
Alex Ferrari 24:58
I would love because someone's in here. Bro smoking a cigar. At the time in my bed in my mind like I want to be in the Chris and Eric.
Erik Sommers 25:05
Yeah, exactly. I can see that.
Alex Ferrari 25:08
So how did you approach writing Spider Man? Did you kind of go into? Did you just go into the archives of Marvel and just start pulling story ideas? And then mixing it with your own ideas? How did that whole story come to be?
Erik Sommers 25:23
That one again, we were not the first writers on that project. So there had been it, there had been two pairs of writers working on it. Okay, a few teams that worked on it before. So it was actually pretty late in the game. And right up in late pre production, they were we're not that many weeks out from shooting, that we came on board. So we didn't have any any of the challenges of, you know, taking all of this source material and honing in on one story or trying to figure out what story we were going to try to tell or anything like that. I mean, it was all there. We were basically rewriting, doing a rewrite on an existing an existing story.
Alex Ferrari 26:03
And how about did you did you start off with Ant Man and the Wasp?
Erik Sommers 26:09
With Ant Man and the Wasp, we were also the second in in that case, they decided to they kept some elements of the first script, but we changed it it was it was earlier on. And then we had just to change to make bigger changes, some more sweeping changes. Just because of the the time available. And for various various reasons. The guys who did the previous draft did a great job. No knock against against issues, what was decided and so we we dug in a little bit more into into RE breaking a story.
Alex Ferrari 26:43
Now, how about no way home? Like what did you guys started off with that? And I mean, that that's such a see if I'm going to watch it tonight? I haven't seen it yet. I'm going to watch it tonight. The trailers make it seem insane. It seems so big, so many things going on? How did you even handle dealing with timelines and characters from different timelines and keeping it all together in your heads? How did you guys do that?
Erik Sommers 27:13
You're stressing me out again, describing it.
Alex Ferrari 27:15
It's done. Eric, it's done. It's over. It's done. Yeah, it's done. It's over. It's come it comes out Friday. Don't worry about it. Don't worry, I won't talk to you before any project ever again, don't worry.
Erik Sommers 27:28
Um, I mean, it was, of course, we we didn't start off knowing that this is what we were going to do. The one thing that was fixed at the beginning is we knew how the last one had ended. Right? We we knew that we had had to deal with it that that was going to be the story engine, you know that that that? Clearly the repercussions of that were going to have a huge impact. And that was going to drive this story. The question was, what impact exactly would it have? And what would Peter want to do about it? What he set out to clear his name? Would he you know, what story? Would we be telling what he'd be setting out to clear his name and really leaning into? No, that was a lie. And I'm going to prove it. And that's going to be this whole story? Or is it going to be he's trying to maintain the balance now that he always tries of being a normal kid and being a superhero, but now it's impossible? Or is it going to be some crisis comes up that has nothing to do with any of this, but it's harder for him to do his job now, because he's, and so it was a lot of conversations with the creative team. You know, we are in a room with John, the director who's really great on story. And Amy Pascal, Rachel O'Connor. And if we're lucky, Kevin fygi will be in there. And really just rolling up our sleeves and thinking what is the best story to tell here? Well, and so it was a long process. There's a lot of blue sky just thinking before we even came down to the idea that it was going to be this.
Alex Ferrari 28:57
So on the swamp. So when you guys on the SEC at the end. And this is a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the second Spider Man. At the end, when they reveal who Peter is. You guys didn't know where you're going? Like the studio didn't know. Like, because you always look Marvel looks so well put together. And this sense of like, Oh, they've got scripts for next 10 years. It's all connected. They really it was like, Okay, we'll figure it out. Yes. Amazing.
Erik Sommers 29:24
We you're obviously we want to think about the greater Oh, yeah. Like there's forest and things like that. But at the end of the day, you really just have to focus on your story and what is what is the coolest ending, most satisfying ending for your story? And that idea had been kicked around. And it's the kind of thing where some of us were like, No, we can't do that. That would be that kid. And then some people were like, Yeah, we shouldn't we should do it. That's it. Yeah. And we just it was a lot of conversations and ultimately, the creative team came to the conclusion that that would be the ending that story With Mysterio, and everything that finally Peter's gonna get to a place where he realizes I don't have to step into Tony shoes, I can be Spider Man and I can play a larger role out there, but I can do it my way. And he was finally starting to seem comfortable. And he had his girlfriend and everything did seem to be going great. And of course, because it's Peter Parker, then you have to pull the rug out. And and things have to take a turn for the worse. And that was like the the best version of that we felt that, oh, you're happy with everything now. And great. Well, guess what the whole world knows who you are. And it's all ruined everything that you saw today. It's all ruined. And so we did not know that what it would lead to we knew that it would be a story engine for the next movie. And, and but don't forget, at the time we did, there was only a deal, right between Disney and Marvel. For far from home. No Deal existed for a next. So it's also one of those things where you have to write what is you think is going to be the best version of your story. But also you can't, you can't hold things back thinking like, oh, we'll do that in a sequel. Or we'll do that in this because you don't know if that'll happen.
Alex Ferrari 31:13
Right! You're playing in somebody else's sandbox as a writer, so you're kind of, you know, like you said, those forces are beyond your control, like, totally completely outside of your outside your control,
Erik Sommers 31:25
There would be another movie we didn't know, we would be hired to write it. So I mean, we just so everyone that that ending is born of a group of people working hard to come up with the best way to end that story. That's it.
Alex Ferrari 31:41
That's, that's remarkable. And that, which brings me to another lesson, I always love to tell film, filmmakers and screenwriters, the best advice I've ever heard in the business is don't be a dick. And because, you know, there's a reason why you guys are keep getting hired, again to do because it's not, it's not usual, you know, to write multiple tentpoles generally speaking, I haven't seen a whole lot of that where the same team is writing or are on the same projects. And that that's a testament to you and Chris, that you like, but these guys obviously are fun to, to work with.
Erik Sommers 32:18
I hope so I want to have fun when I'm working. And I want everyone who's in the room with me to have fun. And I think again, and so just Chris and I think again, that comes from TV, because we were we were we came up in, in comedy writers rooms, and it's just really fun to be in there. Yeah, no, and you're working and you're being creative, but you're joking around, and it's just really fun. It was a fun, fun job. And I'm so grateful that I got to have that job. And I think we we try to bring some of that with us. And so I think it's it's that spirit, but also again, just being willing to collaborate and take notes and not not be defensive and not push back all the time for just for its own sake. And I think you know, I can't say and I'm not I can't say I'm and I'm by nature, not someone who wants to toot their own horn or anything like that makes me comfortable. So I'm sure I couldn't see why people keep fires. I'm glad
Alex Ferrari 33:22
I'm glad I'm glad and humbled by it.
Erik Sommers 33:25
I mean, it gets back to Lessons I was taught early on I think one of the writers when I was assistant he just said like, work super hard. Be nice and friendly with everyone and like to
Alex Ferrari 33:40
Work hard and be nice. Work hard be nice.
Erik Sommers 33:43
I mean that probably is good advice for any job but
Alex Ferrari 33:47
Is there any is there any screenwriters that you kind of looked up to in their style that you know when you were coming up
Erik Sommers 33:55
I can't say that was anyone I I think I just had lots of stuff I enjoyed watching but I you know I didn't read tons of scripts and think oh I love the technical way that guy writes or this or that you know i mean i i I had shows and movies that I loved and in probably subconsciously I was like aping that kind of style or sure sure it's on me but I I can't say there was anyone where I was like you know on a technical way the way this guy writes his action lines are his dialogue sure like um I think it just a lot of it just comes down to half hour comedy influence probably just like keep things snappy, keep moving go and fewer long speeches keep them shorter and it's probably a lot of stuff like that, that I don't even realize I'm doing that's just I was influenced by that's how I learned to write you know, in in writers rooms of half hour comedies.
Alex Ferrari 34:57
Fair enough. I'm gonna ask you a few questions ask all my guests What? What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?
Erik Sommers 35:06
Alex Ferrari 35:08
Be nice. Fair enough. That's a good answer.
Erik Sommers 35:11
Work hard, be nice. Just Just get it out. Don't sit there and think about it forever. Just get out your first draft and you can always write another one. And then, at some point, be willing to put it in the drawer, put it away and move on to the next one. Don't Don't linger on one script or one idea for too long. And because you'll learn more by just moving on and doing the next one.
Alex Ferrari 35:35
What lesson what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Erik Sommers 35:40
Don't beat yourself up.
Alex Ferrari 35:43
Erik Sommers 35:44
For all of us to learn in life and in writing.
Alex Ferrari 35:48
Yeah, especially in writing. And three of your favorite films of all time.
Erik Sommers 35:54
So many predator
Alex Ferrari 35:59
Oh, thank you.
Erik Sommers 36:00
Arnold Schwarzenegger seminal just a moment in my life, I can still remember going to a drive in movie theater and seeing it with friends. And it's just such a big deal. Aliens. I still remember that night to go in with a friend and go into a movie theater. And you know, I just remember that experience and how special and amazing that was. And I would say the Karate Kid.
Alex Ferrari 36:26
Wow, man. Those are three great, great lists, man.
Erik Sommers 36:30
That's it so many. I don't know that that's what I could pull from the top of my head
Alex Ferrari 36:34
Predator is arguably one of the best action films of all time. And so as alien aliens is a masterpiece. So good absolute masterpiece. Erik man. It was a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you so much for being on the show
Erik Sommers 36:46
I hope I didn't ramble too much.
Alex Ferrari 36:48
Erik Sommers 36:50
Old tendencies I have.
Alex Ferrari 36:51
No you did fantastic. And I can't wait to see Spider Man. No way home. It looks amazing. And continued success my friend and I wish you continued success. And please keep writing these man therse are so much fun.
Erik Sommers 37:06
Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking to you. And thanks for having me. And I hope you enjoy the movie.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Spider-Man: Now Way Home – Official Site
- Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible– Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
- Rev.com– $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)