Sarah Smith, Writer-Director of “Ron’s Gone Wrong” and Peter Baynham, Writer – Deadline

In a world where technology has so much influence on children’s lives, there will always be an underlying fear for parents that their children will find it difficult to make real connections. As parents themselves, it was important to Ron was wrong writer-director Sarah Smith and screenwriter Peter Baynham to demonstrate a balance between this fear and the reality that this technology in and of itself is not a bad thing.

The film follows Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer), a lonely college boy who struggles to connect with his classmates who all have B * Bots, a fellow robot who claims to be “your best friend out of the box.” After a disappointing birthday, his father surprises him with a B * Bot named Ron (Zach Galifianakis). Even if Ron turns out to be faulty, the two quickly hook up as Barney tries to teach Ron everything it takes to be a friend.

Sarah Smith, writer-director of “Ron’s Gone Wrong”
Courtesy locksmith animation

Working from London during the pandemic, Smith, Baynham and their team put together Locksmith Animation‘s first theatrical release.

DEADLINE: Where did the idea for Ron was wrong arise from?

PIERRE BAYNHAM: Sarah came to me with this idea to explore social media. We already had our own kids, but they were young then and hadn’t started going through social media hell yet. There was obviously a lot of talk about it, so trying to tell an entertaining movie that has a bit of satire along the way was extremely appealing. My other hat is working with Sacha Baron Cohen on the Borat movies, so I did that kind of avant-garde satire as well. And then she talked about Ron’s character as a device that doesn’t work properly, and how we can explore friendship through that.

SARAH SMITH: I really have a passion for making movies that talk about audience life, and right now we’re all going through that with our kids because they’re growing up in a whole different world of screens and online relationships. As parents we are trying to figure this out and it seemed like the most important thing to make a movie about.

Peter Baynham, screenwriter of “Ron’s Gone Wrong”
Courtesy locksmith animation

DEADLINE: Is this tech obsession something you both need to deal with at home with your kids?

BLACK-SMITH: One hundred percent. Literally. Like, that’s probably the biggest interaction any of us have with our kids, saying, “Are you on your screen? How long have you been on it? What are you looking at? “Because we just don’t know what we’re doing, right? And we’re so aware, I think we still have this radar for the politics of our time and what’s going on and what facebook and google and amazon is doing… we’re very aware of that stuff and we also experience it with our kids. plus we are guilty ourselves and we try to put it in the movie . There was a point very early on where I thought the end of the movie would be that all the B * Bots would go and the kids would look at each other and rekindle one-to-one relationships. Then someone remarked, “It doesn’t. ‘will not happen. ”Therefore, the question of our time is, how do we live with this stuff?

Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis
20th century studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

DEADLINE: And can you talk about the topic of friendship through real connection versus friendship through algorithm?

BAYNHAM: Well, there is no easy answer to all of this. You know, like Sarah said, we weren’t going to make a movie where you go and just ditch the device because that isn’t going to happen. But also, it’s like printing. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just that it’s open to abuse and we tried to explore that a bit in this movie.

Since we got into this movie, a lot of these big companies, without naming any names [cough] Facebook [cough]… It is revealed that they have been researching the effect that some of these platforms have on children, and they are continuing anyway. We are not trying to lecture the kids and say “take off your device”, but we are trying to highlight this problem in the form of entertainment.

BLACK-SMITH: There is an amazing dream of connecting your device is giving you, that you can suddenly be part of a group that is meant to be exactly like you and has everything in common with you, and yet people feel like you are on the verge of the party. It is as much a thing which excludes as it includes. It’s an amazing way to connect with other people you have things in common with, but inevitably by doing this you shut out everyone else, and the movie tries to say, “Tune in.” fools radically different from you, and see what happens because this is possibly the richest relationship of all.

BAYNHAM: Being in the middle of the yard with all the cool kids around you really got us into Barney because it’s very relatable and what we tried to do with this movie is also say, “In fact, maybe more people feel that way than hinting, maybe the other kids in the yard are also scared or anxious.”

DEADLINE: I think you had an interesting contrast with Marc, the creator of the algorithm, and Andrew, the COO, who sort of balances how a kid views this technology as a wonderful thing with all of these possibilities, and the way parents see technology as companies that just want data to sell you stuff.

BLACK-SMITH: Oh, I think we both see both sides of it, and I think Pete and I have always struggled with conventional villains. We wrote Arthur christmas together and the villain of it’s not really a villain. It’s Steve who just wants to be organized and he doesn’t mind the margin of error of missing a child’s gift. It is this kind of business thinking to me that is the worst thing we have in the world. We needed a villain for this movie, and at the end we looked at Mark Zuckerberg and told him he has two faces. I sincerely believe he’s an idealist who wants to connect the world, but he also doesn’t see anything wrong with collecting data from people to sell it, so we split that character up and that made him both voices of Marc. and Andrew.

Barney, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, and Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis
20th century studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

DEADLINE: This film was released after the COVID lockdowns, where children were forced to use this technology as a way to see their friends due to the inability to do so in person. Has it changed your view of technology?

BLACK-SMITH: Well I think that left us more confused because it was undeniable. You could no longer say to your child, “You cannot spend hours in front of the screen”. Because you knew it was the only contact they had with their friends.

I allowed things that I would never have allowed before, because there was no other way, and you could see it was that lifeline and yet at the same time there is an absolute explosion of anxiety in children, so I don’t think all of us really know what we’re doing. But what we did notice was how much our kids wanted to go out and see each other when they were allowed to do so again. They were thirsty for the actual physical connection after the lockdowns.

And the movie itself was made by an incredibly courageous group of hundreds of people all working from home on Zoom. We have an amazing, resilient team that was all split into different Zoom rooms doing pieces of the same movie and trying to keep it as one thing.

It was a weird thing because I write and I realize. I realized with JP [Vine], but I started with Pete for months and months and months and then you put that into production and animation, unlike any other form of filmmaking, every artist has a potential contribution to make where he can move the film in a different direction.

It’s done in such slow detail, that there is room for so many upgrades and inputs and your job is really to make your way through all the brilliance that adds to your movie, while trying to keep it on track so that it serves the story and doesn’t become a different story along the way, and when we went into lockdown and got overwhelmingly disconnected, that was one of the hardest things to do.

We had to hook up some animators and say, “You have to watch what he’s doing because it really works with that. And you become the hub. He needs this personal interpretation to keep everything in place.

Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis
20th century studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

BAYNHAM: I think this also applies to the casting. They sometimes had their vocal performances in their broom cupboards, and did amazing things and especially Zach [Galifianakis] with what he did with Ron …

We finally decided that Ron was like the boring paperclip that appeared on Microsoft documents and said, “Looks like you’re trying to write a document.” And Zach just down the line, via the internet, managed to channel that and create this character that looked weirdly like Borat. Borat and Ron are weirdly similar characters and clownish characters with four percent of their capacity uploaded, and he’s done really well.

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