Have you ever wanted to make a smash comedy hit, just like Director/Producer/"Writer" Judd Apatow? Now you can! Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to crafting a wry, witty, irreverent romantic comedy chock full of heart, without ever having to generate a single fresh concept!
Difficulty: Can be tricky the first time, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can pump them out yearly.
Time: 6 months (4 hours for scripting and casting, a weekend for shooting, and 5 months and 28 days for editing, advertising and “make ‘em wait” time).
Things You Will Need:
A beloved failed TV show from which to pull your cast
A thorough knowledge of basic sexual slang (for help with this, see my other manual, “From Pearl Necklaces to Donkey Punches: the Eight Comedic Sexual Maneuvers”)
A disdain for continuity
An old High School yearbook from which to pull ideas and characters
A shitload of film to allow actors time to improvise (ie, “write the script”)
An understanding of improvisational comedy that entails two guys speaking in unconnected one-liners
Paul Rudd's phone number
A giant bag of weed (usually Paul Rudd can provide this)
1. The Script: Your script is the blueprint for your film, and will define it down to the last detail. A carefully constructed script will show everyone involved that you have taken great care to craft your film deliberately and with a clear vision. Just kidding! Usually throwing together a few ideas on a cocktail napkin with your buddies the night before a pitch meeting will do the trick. And don’t worry, you can still give yourself a screenwriting credit.
When jotting, you’ll basically want to get a protagonist, a problem, and half of a character arc. To create your protagonist, simply take yourself (unless you are a woman, in which case take yourself with a penis), then graft on a glaring flaw that would have made you the subject of fun in High School (a virgin, fat and lazy, a complete pussy).
Make sure it’s a flaw that doesn’t prevent them from being charming (such as “face burnt off” or “is Hitler”) and can be easily solved in fifteen minutes (has sex, decides not to be lazy, has sex with Mila Kunis). Do not expect your protagonist to be more charming than Paul Rudd. This is not necessary, nor is it possible.
Now that you’ve got your protagonist, pick a girl from your High School yearbook that you always had a crush on. Put her in the script. Congratulations, you are done!
You have a main character (you), a minor problem (you’re mildly undesireable), and a conflict to drive the story (you’d like to sleep with a woman, and yet you’ve got that mild undesirability to deal with). The rest will work itself out in editing.
2. Casting: First, get drunk and watch some episodes of that old beloved failed TV series. Become nostalgic, call up one of the lead actors you haven’t seen in a while, and offer him the lead role in your new movie. This has several benefits: you’ve already got their phone number right on you, the shooting process is that much more like your old Frat days, and you know they’ll be grateful for the part. Sometimes they’ll even write the script for you, in which case you can just give them the cocktail napkin and let them go nuts.
But try not to give the same actor the lead role in more than one movie; they tend to get uppity. Remember, you’re the star here; they’re just the medium for your genius. If all of your friends are busy, give Steve Carrel a shot. He’s a decent guy, and Rudd vouches for him.
Now populate the rest of the film with as many male bit players from your previous films as possible. A good method is to put the names of all the people you regularly go drinking with on a wheel, then spin it and match them to characters. And don’t worry, you don’t need to generate character traits for all these people; they can still play themselves, just in new costumes and with new jobs. Pepper in the occasional popular TV comedian, and your male cast is complete.
As for the female cast, DO NOT use the wheel method. If you can help it, you should never reuse an actress; people want new eye candy, and all actresses are equally funny (which is to say, as funny as the guy they are in a scene with). Since the protagonist is based on you and will want to sleep with these women, try and cast women you’d want to sleep with. This has the added benefit that sometimes you get to sleep with them.
Shooting: The key here is quantity. You haven’t written any funny lines yet, but if you get enough footage of the actors saying things, chances are some of the things they say will be funny. You’ve got your premise (you with a minor flaw would like to sleep with a pretty lady), and that’s enough to start.
Let the actors work; all you need to do is roll camera and change angle occasionally so you can edit it all together later. And don’t worry about continuity errors or making motivated cinematography choices; remember, this is a comedy, and most of the audience will be high. You’re not Joel Coen, for God’s sake.
A few tips:
Remember to change locations once in a while. This will give your film what experts call “story structure.”
Tried filming a scene straight? Try it drunk!
Remind your actors to include plenty of juvenile vulgarity: balls, farting, calling each other gay…it’s all comedy gold.
Tried filming a scene drunk? Try it high!
Sometimes, just try filming actors conversing off-set. You’d be surprised how often you get usable footage!
Start rolling Saturday morning, and you should be done in time for Sunday brunch. Just remember to get a LOT of footage. You’ll need it for…
4. Editing: This is where the funny comes together. Pack some snacks and a hefty bowl, because you’re about to watch dozens of hours of boring footage. The trick is to sift out the few funny line deliveries in each location and string them together haphazardly. This creates a “scene.” Edit a number of scenes, put them in rough order (from the beginning to the point where the protagonist solves his minor problem and convinces a woman to have sex with him or, for a twist, have sex with him again), and you’ve got yourself a movie.
But how to tell which lines are funny? You may be tempted to judge a line based on the words being said, what they mean, etc. This is the “content” of the line, and is unimportant. Funny doesn’t come from people spouting clever jokes, it comes from people saying things
in a funny way. And because the actors were improvising their lines, a lot of deliveries may be awkward, stilted, or contain false starts or stuttering. This is comedy.
5. Advertising: When promoting your film, remember that your target audience doesn’t have a lot of time to waste staring at non-blacklit posters. Accommodate them by either blacklighting all of your posters (can be cost-prohibitive) or, more likely, keeping things simple. Follow this basic photoshop tutorial to generate a killer one-sheet:
1. Take a photograph of your main character.
2. Using the pen tool, cut the actor out of the photo.
3. Using the gradient tool, create a circular gradient behind the actor’s head.
4. Add appropriate text.
If your lead actor is too ugly to appear on the poster, consider non-image-based alternatives:
When not blogging for Cracked, Michael drily analyzes things he wishes he had made as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!
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