Writing Yourself Out of a Corner
Feig: I’m very deliberate when I write my first draft. I won’t move forward if I can’t think of the right word or description of an action. And so I tend to see corners coming before I get too deep into them. By letting my characters show me the way, I sometimes like to let them lead me into what I fear might be a corner because then the fun is figuring out how they would actually get out of it. I think if you don’t lead yourself into what you fear might be a corner, you risk writing a story that is predictable or not terribly interesting.
My favorite thing in movies or television is when a character is heading into something and I’m thinking, Holy shit, how in the world are they going to get out of that situation? The problem is that oftentimes the solution isn’t good or is convenient or has a deus ex machina that makes you lose faith in the people who are telling the story. But when a storyteller leads you into an unsolvable situation and then gets you out of it in a way that you never saw coming and that totally makes sense, it’s viewer nirvana.
Cody: Just keep writing; you’ll get out. It’s like getting stuck in a bumper car. Turn the damn wheel and mash the pedal and eventually you’ll do a 180.
Curtis: For me, the most important scene in Four Weddings was the scene that I realized I fucked up the film. Because I’d written a lot of it and we had the funeral, and anyone who sees the funeral would know that true love is real, and can’t be found and they had experience of it, there is such a thing as the right person, that’s what the funeral says to every person in the movie. And then, structurally, I planned that we should cut straight to Hugh marrying the wrong person. And that made that character an idiot who was going in completely the wrong direction. And so I realized the film is fatally flawed, because every single person will know, and then you cut to your leading character who you’re meant to empathize with, who is the only person in the room who doesn’t know what happened.
I spent months on that one scene and finally found a way of getting him to the wrong position. The way I did it was having him have a conversation with the most lovely person in the film who was also not clever. He had a conversation with James Fleet’s character, and James said, “I never expected true love, I just thought I’d just bump into someone who didn’t find me revolting. It worked for my parents until the divorce.” And so you were sort of suckered into the wrong conclusion. But before I did that, I’d have a conversation with Andie, a conversation with Kristin [Scott Thomas], and had all of them talking about the whole issue; I tried every way to get to the end of the movie, and that’s one of those things where you realized that your thought is flawed and you have to use a lot of craft to get from A to B.