Posts tagged ‘rom com’

November 11, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Billy Mernit’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Our latest list of “un-rules” comes from the always insightful Billy Mernit. Billy writes Living the Romantic Comedy, a great site that anyone writing romantic comedies or comedies in general should treat like gospel. Known as “the guru of rom-com” for his best-selling screenwriting textbook, Writing the Romantic Comedy, Billy teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and contributed two chapters to the recently published Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Billy published his first novel Imagine Me and You in 2008. During his many years in the entertainment industry, he has written for television and worked as both a screenwriter and private script consultant. After being a story analyst for Sony and Paramount, he has held that job at Universal Pictures for the past fifteen years. At Universal, he’s had a hand in the development of such recent successes as Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect.

Billy chose to approach his rules from the perspective of a story analyst. Here are his top three truisms:

  1. A primary goal of any spec script that’s going to market is to get the reader to identify with its protagonist. Your story requires a compelling, relatable lead character – meaning, we know what she wants and we believe she may be capable of getting it, the ways in which she overcomes her obstacles make her empathetic, and she’s complex enough to keep us interested. Your job is to get us to be her, even if this means putting what she thinks and how she feels into the narrative on the screenplay page. If we’re not totally emotionally invested in her story and seeing it though her eyes by the end of the first act, your script is dead in the water.

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October 4, 2012

10 Rom Com Truisms

Billy Mernit of Living the Romantic Comedy recently compiled a list of 10 romantic comedy truisms with links to his articles supporting and providing advice for each point. If you’re working on a rom com, this list is essential reading:

A few readers have asked me to put all of these “truism” posts, scattered over the past 18 months, in one convenient place for persual.  So be it (just click on the numbers to get to the corresponding links).

# 1:  The primary challenge lies not in creating obstacles to keep the couple apart, but in convincing the audience that these two people truly do belong together.

# 2:  A star can open a romantic comedy, but a protagonist who doesn’t make sense will piss off the movie’s audience forever.

#3:  The depth of your audience’s emotional investment in the central romance is directly proportionate to the size of the story’s stakes.

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#4:  Solve the Woman Problem and you will get rich.

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October 5, 2011

The Trick to a Script Like Bridesmaids: Write, Then Rewrite, Then Rewrite…

This new article from Living the Romantic Comedy delves into the writing process that Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo went through to get to the funniest possible film — they wrote, then they re-wrote a dozen-plus times, and then they embraced a lot of improv in the actual filming (download the script here). There’s a big lesson to be learned here about not settling for the first or even the tenth idea that comes to you:

In the “Line-o-Rama” bonus on the just-released Bridesmaids DVD, a bonanza of alternate takery, there’s one sequence where Melissa McCarthy improvises variations on the same brief line, over and over again, trying out a different gag every time. How many takes? Reader, I counted them: there are forty-eight.

The last question asked in the Q & A of my Screenwriting Expo seminar on “Comedy Craft for the Contemporary Romantic Comedy” came out of discussing Bridesmaids, which I’d worked on as a story analyst at Universal. I’d shown some clips from it and mentioned the screenplay’s long (3-4 years) gestation, noting how co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo had been in the enviable position of writing and rewriting on the studio’s dime, under the guidance of producer Judd Apatow.

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