One of the things you did in Jurassic Park was the animated video that they watch.
Koepp: With the DNA stuff, Steven said, "It's a theme park. They could have an intro video." And then we kind of got into the absurdity of it that there was an animated character. We were remembering Hemo the Magnificent, the video you'd see about blood in seventh grade health class. And he had an accent for some reason. And it was the highlight of health class. So we ran with that, and even though we're just stopping for three or four minutes and having them look straight at this, it makes sense, because that's the world that you're in. It's so much easier. But it was very hard to digest that book in a way that was not going to be exhausting or didactic … or referencing other Steven Spielberg movies...
I had gone with a scene in the book as my opening in which we're in a hospital in Costa Rica, and they bring somebody in who has weird bite marks. They say it's a construction accident, and the doctor says, "This was not a construction accident." And Steven was like, "Um, there's a scene like that in Jaws." "Oh, right!" [Laughs]
One thing that's helpful for humor's sake in Cold Storage is that they aren't a bunch of scientists sitting around and talking exposition to one another, which is not funny. They're real people, with real lives, and they can be irreverent. One of the characters, Teacake, is loquacious, and has an interesting way of talking. And there are characters who are dumb and mean, so you can make fun of them. You'd never make fun of somebody who's dumb and good-hearted, but dumb and mean, for sure, you can go after them. But there are some turns of phrase that crack you up that just aren't going to make it.
There seems to be a recurring theme throughout your work about compressed time and space. Cold Storage, with the story mostly taking place in one night, and the storage facility. By chance, are you claustrophobic? Panic Room seems to have been inspired by you getting trapped in an elevator, at least...
Koepp: I think it's based more on a storytelling predilection than an actual fear. The problem is always how to contain the story. If I could write Lawrence of Arabia, I would, but I don't do so well with space, because I can't get my head around it. Who can? It takes a rare talent. But things that are contained within a bubble, I can tell a story. The Paper, we knew we wanted to do a newspaper story, but then we asked ourselves, "What's the frame?" It's 24 hours, minute to minute. Panic Room is the most extreme example. I wanted as much of it to be in this one house, and as much of it that could be in this tiny room, the better. We were renovating a townhouse, and I got stuck in this elevator. I hated that elevator! It was very old, money was flying out the window, and I decided to transfer my feelings of resentment and confinement into the script.
With Cold Storage, the storage facility served a similar purpose, even right down to the individual unit that they get trapped in. But at this point, I wouldn't know how to tell that story as a global infection. It's too big, and it feels too familiar, even if Contagion is one of my favorite movies. So once the thing hits groundwater and spreads out, it's a different story.
Also I think containing the story, restricting certain elements, out of those constraints come great inventions. The same thing happens when you're shooting a movie. When you don't have money for something, you almost always end up having a better idea than when you have unlimited resources.