SUBJECT: City of Shit
FROM: Robert Grunin
TO: Justin Hurwitz
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
The way the line "you never shined so brightly" is set is terrible. The stress is on the wrong syllable.


FROM: Justin Hurwitz
TO: Robert Grunin
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
You were the ones who wrote two lines that didn't scan the same. If you want it fixed, it's all on you.


FROM: Robert Grunin
TO: Justin Hurwitz
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
I assumed the line would be primed, as it obviously should be. You didn't see it and think maybe it should become something else?


FROM: Justin Hurwitz
TO: Robert Grunin
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
No.


FROM: Robert Grunin
TO: Justin Hurwitz
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
Then excuse us for not realizing you had an inability to compose more than two distinct melodies for a musical film.


FROM: Justin Hurwitz
TO: Robert Grunin
CC: Jamie Rulin, Damien Chazelle
At least my melodies are distinct.


"Don't do it."

"Do what?"

"Whatever it is you're thinking of saying," Jamie's saying, chin tucked over his shoulder as he peers at the screen, "don't. We can't afford it."

"Fuck 'afford it'. We have a contract."

"Please don't."

Bobby stifles a sigh. He's right, probably. He knows he's probably right. If anybody needs the other, they're the ones who need this movie, need Justin's approval, need Damien's name and Cinderella clout behind them. No one cares about a Tony nomination above 54th Street. No one cares about A Christmas Story past January 2nd or Dogfight outside of the college musical theatre circuit or James and the Giant Peach frankly anywhere, it seems. Bobby knows. Jamie's right. He hates that he knows he's right.

"Fine," he says instead, closing his laptop and swiveling around in his chair. "What do you suggest we do?"

Jamie shrugs. "Fix it."

"You make it sound so easy."

"Words are easy."

"Fuck you too," but he's laughing. It's a truth universally acknowledged that Jamie Rulin is impossible to be mad at, not for real. Even when he's being a little shit, even when he's too wasted to hit the right keys or play the right chords, even when he's being infuriatingly accommodating instead of helping him fight for what they both know is right, it's never Jamie himself that Bobby gets annoyed with, only everything else.

Then again, Bobby doesn't get mad either. That would require taking something seriously enough to get affronted on its behalf. That would require a full-scale reboot of everything that makes him Bobby Grunin. That would require a pause on the nonstop carefree party that he insists his life must be at all times. No, Bobby never gets mad either. Not unless someone's fighting him on scansion.

"I'm just saying," Jamie's saying.

"If words are easy, you should do a better job."

"Hey, I'm just the Affleck to your Damon here."

It's not necessarily a fair assessment, but it's not unfair either. Despite having agreed at eighteen to always be billed together for everything they write, despite Bobby's musical dabblings and Jamie's lyrical attempts, despite the numerous whole songs they've each written entirely on their own, Bobby is primarily the lyricist and Jamie is primarily the composer. Everyone who knows them will also know this. Whether Damien and Justin didn't know or just didn't care never came up, but now here they are, trying to put words onto someone else's music. Bobby hadn't known that putting a song together could feel so slow and awkward. Even when it was hard, it had always felt right. Trying to work out lyrics with Jamie on Justin's melody is like trying to translate between two languages he doesn't even know.

"So you get to be Batman and I peak at twenty-seven?"

"I didn't know Mystic Pizza came out in '97."

"The worst part about what you just said is that you knew, off the top of your head, how old Matt Damon is."

"I'm competitive."

Bobby laughs again as Jamie unfurls the grin of a champion shit-eater. He may be a winner, but Jamie is no contender. He's the Hufflepuff to Bobby's Slytherin, the ready set to Bobby's go. With the distraction of a competition shielding him from view, Jamie will walk straight up to the judges' table and charm them into handing him the prize. So it's a good thing Bobby had been paying attention to him instead.

Jamie's the one people say yes to. That's not true. People love saying yes to Bobby, but it usually doesn't come with $40 million attached. Jamie's the one who can make them feel safe, like their investment's secure, like he's a solid young man with a good head on his shoulders, never mind that he's probably also got a blunt in his pocket. People are drawn to Bobby. Jamie's the one they like. Bobby's the pitch, Jamie's the closer. The rhythm to his melody. He needs him. He knows that. They both do. At least there's that.

"Okay," says Bobby. "Okay. Okay, okay, okay. How's: you're all I wanted to be, something about shining sea, reflecting in the sea, foresee? Can we do something with foresee? Hear my plea, lock and key, change the key, set me free, tell me what will be, which is more a first verse sentiment."

"What about believe? Like - "

"'Believe' doesn't rhyme with 'me'."

A shrug, not nearly as concerned as it should be. "It's perfect rhyme or perfect scansion. Up to you."

Bobby groans, spinning back around in his chair. "I quit. I'm leaving. I can't believe you just said that to me. I'm asking Nick if he wants a bookwriter on his next show."

Jamie laughs. He doesn't believe him. Of course he doesn't believe him. They both know Bobby would be lost and useless without him. "I'm just saying," he's saying, gentle smile and voice so soothing, "a little compromise never hurt anybody." Steady as a heartbeat. The rhythm to his melody.

"1850," Bobby mutters rebelliously.

"What?"

"The Compromise of 1850," he repeats, all his BFA speech training coming out in his lips, his teeth, his tip of the tongue. "Fugitive Slave Law. Read a fucking book, Rulin."

"Anyone ever tell you you're a real pain in the ass?"

"You do, at least twice a day."

"Mm." Jamie's got this stubborn little dimple that always makes it look like he's smiling, no matter what he's saying. He's usually smiling. Sometimes Bobby wonders which came first, a face so pathologically sweet that everyone can't help but be sweet right back to him and make him think the world is full of sunshine and daisies and people who want to be his friend, or if maybe he was born that way. Niceness comes so easily to him, like breathing or piano. Sometimes Bobby thinks he should envy him. "Lucky you have me around to keep your ego deflated. Wouldn't want you floating away on me."

"Yeah, yeah," Bobby replies, shrugging off the hand on his shoulder. "You'd be lost and useless without me."

At least that's true too.