Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give Me Direction - Day One with Bobby Farrelly....

I missed the Give Me Direction event last year, organised by JDIFF and the Film Board, so was mustard keen to get to this one. Especially as the line-up included Bobby Farrelly and one of my favourite female directors, Friends With Money-helmer Nicole Holofcener.

Thursday afternoon kicked off with Bobby Farrelly, who seemed like a nice man. It would've been cool to have had his brother there too, seeing as comedy screenwriters like to do double acts, but I thought he was very informative. Lenny Abrahamson interviewed him (hard to imagine two more different directors!) and asked pretty much all the important stuff.

Here's what I learned from Mr. Farrelly's interview:
  • The bruvs know the initial premise of the film when they sit down to write it but not the whole story. That way, they get to play around with the characters and see what unfolds.
  • They like to paint themselves into a corner by the end of Act 2, with no idea as to how the hero will get himself out of trouble. Cos then the audience won't know either!
  • He likes screenwriting books, especially Syd Field and Save the Cat, but thinks you can't "write to the rules" all the time as the audience will be able to tell that it's forced.
  • He and the bro write 5 pages a day, on a good day.
  • They like to do table-readings before they start filming, with 5-6 other writers and anyone else they think is funny.
  • They do their own audience test-screenings and will make as many changes as needed until the laughs come.
  • They spent about 10 years out in Hollywood writing scripts and working minimum wage jobs before they lucked out with Dumb and Dumber. They had never directed so much as a short before but were fortunate enough to hire Jim Carrey, who was about to go stratospheric with Ace Ventura. So they got to direct the movie, and for 16m dollars instead of the planned 100k budget.
  • A lot of the jokes come from their own experiences and memories. For example, the zipper incident in There's Something About Mary happened to a friend of their sister. Owww... Plus the mentally-challenged brother was based on a real guy they grew up with.

They then screened Kingpin, the only Farrelly brothers film I'd never seen, which is bloody hilarious. Especially Bill Murray.

I thought it was a good first day - fun and kind of motivational. I can write a multi-million dollar flick! It also hammered home something that every writer/group of writers was going to subsequently tell us - that comedy is very hard for one person to write. You need someone to bounce the humour off, to check that you're not writing total shit that isn't funny. And if you've no one to write with, a table reading might be a good idea.

I'll report tomorrow on the wondrous second day of GMD, which included the guys from Peep Show and Ms. Holofcener.

No comments: