The (Shady) Origin Of All Of Those Awful Parody Movies
Remember when every other comedy to come out of Hollywood had the world Movie on the title, a badly Photoshopped crowd of people on the cover, and was unspeakably awful? The most common names behind those cinematic atrocities are Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who got to do all those films exclusively because their names show up on the credits of the first Scary Movie, a spoof that made more money than the movies it was spoofing ($278 million vs. Scream's $173 million and I Know What You Did Last Summer's $125 million).
Unlike the great majority of the Movie movies that followed it, this one had moments that were legitimately funny ...
... and moments that, uh, weren't. But still, what happened? How can those other movies suck so thoroughly on every possible level if the same people are involved? According to Shawn and Marlon Wayans, who are credited as Friedberg and Seltzer's co-writers on Scary Movie, that's because the same people aren't involved, and this movie's credits are allegedly a big scam.
On a 2012 podcast (brought to our attention by this Reddit post), Shawn and Marlon claim that the whole thing started when their manager asked them what they were doing. They mentioned they were writing a script by the catchy name of Last Summer I Screamed Because Halloween Fell On Friday The 13th. That manager soon left the agency and, according to the Wayans, shared their idea with his new clients, Friedberg and Seltzer, who at that point (by their own estimate) had sold about 40 scripts that were never produced. The only one that got made was the first one, Spy Hard, which is one of those '90s movies that achieved the remarkable feat of making Leslie Nielsen unfunny.
By the way, Spy Hard was sold through and directed by a guy called Rick Friedberg. Yes, relation.
However, they got the idea, Friedberg (the junior) and Seltzer began working on a script called Scream if You Know What I Did Last Summer. The title alone betrays a certain Wayans Bros. influence, since they'd just released the acclaimed Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (a spoof of '90s hood films) and they were the only ones pitching such unwieldy titles to studios back then. The Wayans believe that Miramax Films, which bought their script, bought the Friedberg/Seltzer one too just to "take it off the market."
Marlon and Shawn went on to star in Scary Movie, which was directed by their brother Keenen Ivory Waynes, and they claim that Friedberg and Seltzer never stepped on the set, and not a single word from their script was used. By 2012, they still sounded pretty upset that the Writer's Guild of America made them credit Friedberg and Seltzer in the movie -- a credit they used to get some of the worst parody movies known to man funded. The trailers for Date Movie and Epic Movie proudly identify them as "two of the six writers of Scary Movie."
Now, the claim that not a word from their script was used on Scary Movie could be an exaggeration. Friedberg and Seltzer have taken credit for the (NSFW) scene where Anna Faris' pubic hair fills the entire shot, and her boyfriend grabs a weed whacker to trim it down -- in fact, they were so proud of it that they included it in their pitch to the studios. (So far, none of the Wayans have come forward to say it was their idea.)
Friedberg and Seltzer have gone back to not getting films made after their last three ones bombed spectacularly. In 2017, they were supposed to start shooting Star Worlds Episode XXXIVE=MC2: The Force Awakens The Last Jedi Who Went Rogue (a Star Trek spoof), and ... that's the last anyone heard of them, apparently. Perhaps nature has finally healed enough to allow the spoof genre to return. As written by someone else, please.
Top image: 20th Century Studios, Dimension Films