“We basically pounded out our first draft in six days.”
Annie Mumolo, co-writer of Bridesmaids
Because I write so much about screenwriters who wrote 6-13 screenplays before they sold a script, it’s always nice to point out the anomalies. (It’s much more encouraging to new writers, right?) Here’s the story of a first screenplay that was good enough to get an Oscar-nomination:
“Bridesmaids was our first screenplay. I knew how scripts worked, but I didn’t know what should generally happen on page 30, or in three acts, so we bought one of Syd Field‘s book on screenwriting. When Annie and I turned in our original draft, she was seven months pregnant—and then she was seven months pregnant again when we shot the movie. We joked that when her babies came out, their first words were going to be ‘Judd’ [Apatow, who produced the movie] and ‘rewrite.’ There are a lot of sad moments in the film, which we really wanted. In the end, the story is the most important thing, It’s a story first and funny second.”
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Of course, to be totally fair, I should point that while Wiig says they pounded out the first draft in just under a week, it was really a five year process to get script polished and the movie on the big screen. (And that’s with Judd Apatow in their corner.) Plus the 38-year-old actress/writer began taking acting classes in college at the University of Arizona, moved to L.A. where she was joined the improv group The Groundlings (where she met Mumolo), joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2005 (and would later win a Primetime Emmy), and she got her first feature film role in the 2007 Judd Apatow film Knocked Up.
So like Diablo Cody (who also had Oscar success with her first script) Wiig had been at the creative game fifteen plus years before her Oscar success. (Cody said she’d been writing everyday since she was 12-years-old, had a Media Studies degree from the University of Iowa, had a book published, had been a guest on David Letterman, and a good enough blogger to interest a Hollywood manager before winning an Oscar for her first script—Juno.)
Mumolo took her own long road to screenwriting success. According to IMDB, she performed her first comedy in seventh grade, got a degree in history from U.C. Berkeley, trained at the South Coast Rep in Cosa Mesa, is a Groundling member, and has been working steadily in TV as an actress for almost a decade.
Oh, and about that script written in six days— just the first draft. It went through many layers before its Oscar-nomination. There we just a few notes from producers and the studio on how to improve the script.
“Since we’ve been in this since 2006, the amount of notes that we’ve gotten over the years, on so many different subjects, and on so many levels—it is overwhelming and it is hard to sift through…It’s a hard thing to swallow because you get excited that you sold something, and then you turn in your first draft, and they go ‘great, we love it—here’s 25,000 page of notes.'”
Script Mag podcast with Jenna Milly
And also factor in that there was not only a heavy dose of improv on the set, but Mumolo pointed out that the improv carried over into the ADR session, which is dubbing lines of dialogue in the post-production end of the process. So the other actors and actresses had a hand in the dialogue, and director Paul Feig, along with editors William Kerr and Michael L. Sale (and their editorial team), all had a hand in going through the mound of footage crafting together a cohesive story.
So call it basically a six days “plus” script, before the equation leads to the Oscar nomination and a worldwide box office gross of $288 million.
P.S. Similarities between Bridesmaids and Juno? Both are female-driven comedies set in the Midwest (one Minnesota and the other Wisconsin/Chicago) — and both are one word titles.
Related post: First Screenplay, Oscar—Precious