Fall is here. Well, the UCLA Extension fall catalog is here and that means loads of Writers’ Program courses will start in late September. After the backyard BBQ’s and days spent lying on the beach (or curled in a hammock), it’s time to return to the writing goals you set back in (eek!) January.
And while the economy may not offer much encouragement, your fellow classmates might be just the motivation you need. In fact, some writing might be better in a group.
Writers’ Program: Why do you think the television model of writing comedy “around a table” has become so important to the movie marketplace?
Dave Polsky: The idea of bringing lots of different brains to a feature comedy is not new. Studios have been passing scripts from one writer to another for rewrites for decades. What’s emerging, perhaps because the improv comedy ethos is becoming ever more influential among comics, is funny writers and performers have been self-affiliating into “camps.” There’s the so-called “Frat Pack” that emerged as dominant in the late 90’s and early 00’s with Ben Stiller as its epicenter, and now of course, the dominant community is the closely-related one that has formed around Judd Apatow. The result is that many brains now cooperate to improve the story and the funny, but the script never leaves control of the central creative person or team. This is the phenomenon that I refer to, very loosely speaking, as a “table.”
WP: Do you enjoy collaborating when writing feature comedies? Why?
DP: Absolutely. Because I’m not that funny. Much better to sponge off the talents of others.
WP: What are the joys and pitfalls of working with a group on a feature film?
DP: A comedy doesn’t work if there’s not some unifying voice to the piece. To accomplish that in a group, generally you need someone (or some very effective team) in charge, setting and maintaining the tone. It falls on the others involved, then, to be productive supporting players in that creative process. The joy is that you have a team that organizes well along these lines and clicks… it’s a high that’s difficult to describe. When the team becomes chaotic, however, it turns into a misery that’s also difficult to describe.
WP: What disappointing comedy would you like to rewrite?
DP: License to Wed jumps to mind.
WP: What’s your favorite comedy of the past year?
DP: Not very inventive, I know, but I’d have to say The Hangover. From the simplicity of the premise to the smarts and audacity of the execution, everything worked. And the way that rooftop scene at the end of Act One slyly sets up so much of what ultimately transpires? Genius.
Fall courses are available for enrollment now! Click here to enroll in The Comedy Feature Roundtable.
Gabrielle Stephens is the Program Representative in Screenwriting (Onsite).