“The Deal” works on two levels: Art and Reality. The story is about selling your soul. What the Adversary is really offering is a do-over with life on cheat mode. This story was directed by Daniel Kaminsky and written by Will Strouse, but Will only got credit on IMDB, not in the film credits. Why is it that only the director’s career took off and Will Strouse was erased? What did the Director do in Hollywood before this break? He’d never really directed or written anything, but now he’s the Executive Producer of The Nevers on HBO. How did he get such luck? For the better part of a decade, Daniel Kaminsky was the assistant to Joss Whedon. In fact, he was his assistant for all the Marvel movies and tv and this was while Joss was purportedly up to his worst behavior. Daniel Kaminsky did not intend for this, but the short rings like a confessional for his own Faustian deal. This short was the first payday for Daniel’s deal because Joss was the executive producer.
To be fair, I’ve argued before that many many many of our greatest artists were terrible human beings- EG Picasso. Both Joss and Picasso, were notorious misogynists, but brilliant. I loved Buffy and pretty much everything Joss did, except Dollhouse which was terrible. It could be that artists need more of a community of regular people to be better behaved? Perhaps Hollywood doesn’t provide the limits that some creatives need to keep from falling into the abyss. We could do a housing program where we re-settle artists to Peoria, Des Moines, and Pittsburgh; not to be mean, just to keep them a little more grounded.
Back to selling your soul, unlike Picasso, Joss took an apprentice who likely saw him at his worst and knew how to keep the secrets. Dramatization below:
The Deal shows a former Prom King and Queen, Bryce and Monica, who have fallen into a post-high school slump. They are going to a party being held by the former nerd James; he used to do magic, his sister Becca used to be obese, but both are now rich and thin. In fact, everyone at the party has obvious success despite their purported mediocrity, which we learn from the exposition nuggets. One exposition nugget was from Hector, who was Bryce’s high school friend and got Bryce’s scholarship when Bryce suffered a car accident.
The party continues and we learn that Monica really wanted to be an actress and then we lose track of her. Bryce can’t track her down either. He enters James’ room and she’s not there and Bryce starts to lose it and search everywhere for Monica. Finally, James’ reveals his black demon-eyes and we learn that everyone there made a deal. In fact, Monica was about to make a deal, using her body as a trade. This was a very Harvey Weinstein moment. Bryce accidentally kills Monica and James made her disappear from existence. No one remembers her. In the end, Bryce doesn’t either.
Monica’s disappearance also fits with what Weinstein and Whedon did to people who crossed them!
When you do something terrible, the greatest deal would be to have it erased from all time. But like any deal with the Devil, there’s collateral damage: Bryce’s injury so Hector could succeed or Monica because Bryce chose himself.
This story rings so real because it was just six months after this short was released that all of the Kingpins started to fall: Weinstein, Lauer, Rose, CK, and eventually Joss himself. Maybe some deals have fine print? This short is creepy, but not for the writing or directing.