Thursday, August 14, 2008

Karen McCullah Lutz, The House Bunny

I love a good comedy. And when I see a movie written by Karen McCullah Lutz and her writing partner Kirsten Smith, I know it's going to be hilarious. I'm really looking forward to seeing The House Bunny. I have high expectations that I'm going to have cramps from laughing so hard.

Karen so kindly answered my interview questions...I always like to learn from those who are experts and Karen is a very accomplished screenwriter as well as a novelist. Plus she's from New Jersey which makes her super cool. Just don't tell her a fart joke.

Comedy is so subjective but you seem to nail it. How do you approach the comedic elements in your films? You are downright funny whereas some writers are just slapsticky or their brand of humor is for teenage boys.
I think you just have to be inherently funny. It's a hard thing to learn if you're not. I've seen people try and it's not pretty. But it's all about what you think is amusing. If you're trying to write dick jokes and you hate dick jokes, they're not going to be funny. Which is why I refuse to write fart jokes. Farting is not funny to me. I'm not saying i didn't laugh in 9th grade when Mike Kicinski farted during algebra -- I'm just saying that's the last time I think I laughed at someone farting.

I think what's important is to look for the opportunities for the funniest things your character can do, while still being true to her/himself and the funniest situations you can put those characters in.

The House Bunny looks great. I want to know how long it took to write the screenplay and what happened after you were finished it. Does the screenplay go out to actresses or producers?

The House Bunny took a few months to figure out the pitch and then about four months to write. Anna Faris pitched us the character -- a Playboy Bunny who's been kicked out of the Mansion, and then we spent a couple months figuring out where that character went from there and what the story was. We had another script idea about a house mother at a sorority and we were sitting in the lobby of the L'Hermitage Hotel when it occurred to me to wed the two ideas.
I blurted it out to Kirsten (my writing partner) and my manager Seth, and immediately, we knew we had the movie. We took it out as a pitch with Anna in the room with us doing lines we had written for her, and it sold to Happy Madison (Adam Sandler's production company) and Paramount. Paramount decided not to make it because they didn't have enough room on their slate for this summer, so Happy Madison immediately took it to Sony and got them to greenlight it.

I know your fans have been anxiously awaiting the movie version of your book, The Bachelorette Party. What's the scoop?
I'm confident that "The Bachelorette Party" will get made this year. I've got two studios who want to put it in production right away. It's just a matter of getting it back in turnaround from Fox where it was originally set up. This movie is going to be so fun to make, I'm worried that I will cease functioning as a normal human being while it's in production.

We all know what a director does but tell me how producing works. Can a screenwriter be brought on board to produce?

I'm only interested in producing what I write. But yes, often times screenwriters are brought in to supervise younger writers and break the story with them, and then are given producer credit.

Do you attend the premieres of your movies?

Yes, I go to all of my premieres. And Kirsten and I usually have an opening night party for all of our friends, because sadly, writers never get a lot of tickets to the premiere.

I read something about most movies are geared towards the male demographic. (just look at the summer films being released, where are the chick flicks?) Apparently producers don't think females go to the movies! Sex and the City proved that theory wrong. What are your thoughts?

Yes, I think it's definitely wrong to assume that only men go to movies. If that were true, I'd be living in a box under the freeway overpass. So cleary, that is an absurd thesis.

Do you ever worry that you will run out of ideas? Do you feel nervous about beginning a new project?

No, I am confident that I will never run out of ideas. I have far more ideas than time to write them, sadly. In fact, that's how I usually know that someone will never make it as a writer --when they ask me how to get ideas. If you don't have them, don't write. Go be an accountant.
If you're a creative person, ideas will burst out of you. You won't be able to stop them. You will find ideas in every painting you see, every conversation you have, every song you hear, every job you've had, every past life you've led, every love affair you have -- it's endless. Ideas are the easy part. Writing them down into a coherent script is the hard work. It cracks me up when some random yahoo says to me, "I have a great idea, you write it and we'll split the money". I literally want to smack those people. It takes ten seconds to come up with an idea. They're not getting half my paycheck for that. Are they high?
I have a thousand ideas for scripts sitting in files in my office. I probably only have 60 or so more years to live and I plan to be living on a vineyard in Tuscany for the last 30 of them, so uh, sorry crazy people, I don't need your ideas, nor will I give you money for them. I only wish I could stop spending three hours a day answering email, because then I would have more time to write, but i'm an email addict and that's never going to change.

What are some of the best and worst movies you've seen in 2008? And do you find that you are a harsh judge of films because of your screenwriting background?

Best and Worst Movies of 2008: Loved "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guanatanomo Bay" laughed my ass off. Am so jealous that i did not come up with the "jam out with your clam out" line. that made me spit out my soda.

"Stepbrothers" was kind of funny, fifteen minutes of solid laughs.

There was one comedy i really hated, but i can't name it for fear of alienating people I like.

I liked "Sex in the City" for the most part, but was a bit thrown that the biggest laugh in the movie was about Charlotte shitting her pants. Seemed beneath the franchise in some way. Scatalogical humor has never really amused me.

Did Semi-Pro come out in 2008? I was not a fan of that.

And yes, sometimes being a writer does ruin a movie for me, because I'm rewriting it in my head while I'm watching it if I don't enjoy what I'm seeing. Or else I can predict exactly where they're going, because I'm used to the plotting mechanism and know what studios want.

You and I are from the same small town area in New Jersey. Ever want to go back, have you been to your highschool reunions? Might I add that the Jonas brothers and Tara Reid also hail from Bergen County.

Yes, I did go to my 20th high school reunion. I went to Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ -- a very small town in Bergen County -- suburb to NYC -- and I worked in Wycoff at the local McDonald's. Our reunion was at the Radison in Paramus, right across the street from Paramus Park Mall, which I was very excited about as I'd spent every weekend of my adolescence there. I was so f'ing excited to eat a funnel cake in that food court ... but no, THERE ARE NO MORE FUNNEL CAKES AT PARAMUS PARK MALL!!! I was devastated.
And I'm pretty sure the wine we had at our reunion came out of box. It was not super tasty and I was very hungover the next day. But I did love seeing everyone, as it had literally been twenty years. I moved to Virginia about two weeks after I graduated high school.

The day after the reunion, I drove to Oakland and had a slice of Tony Brothers pizza. I'd been waiting twenty years to have that pizza again and I've gotta say -- it was well worth the wait.

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