David Wain, Will Forte and More Discuss A Futile And Stupid Gesture

Check out our brief recap of our screening of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, and Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, producer of The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith.

What was your first exposure to National Lampoon?

I bought my first issue in the late 80’s, where they had a “best of the best,” issue. Later, I went back and read some of the earlier issues.

Will Forte

I was born in 1970, and got introduced to National Lampoon through the movies for the most part.

John Aboud

I was at a senior’s house waiting for a carpool ride, and found an issue of National Lampoon. I thought to myself, “I don’t have to read Mad Magazine Anymore!”

David Wain

I have not yet looked at the magazines, but I will.

How did you guys come across the book, “A Futile and Stupid Gesture?”

I was on AOL Instant Messenger, and thought, ‘this might be inside baseball, but I think people would want to hear about the story of Doug Kenney.’

I didn’t even know who Doug Kenney was, but when I learned more about him, I was blown away by the incredible breadth of work he had accomplished in his life. If I didn’t know who he was, everyone needs to know the impact he has made on the world of comedy over the years.

We tried to pitch it at HBO, and they asked for a script. In 2010, we wrote it on spec. Once we had the script, we had trouble setting it up, and the project became very dear to us.

We wanted to make a movie that would go to Sundance, and we were being too precious with the film. We wanted to really honor this man in a way that the comedy community of today would be paying homage to the comedy community from back then.

Did the script change a lot over time?

We all talked about it before they wrote the script. We then all chimed in on what we told them to do.

We had lots of discussions about the structure of it, and how to make it unconventional as a biopic.

We were talking about American Splendor, and other triumphs in this genre of film.

A lot of things that changed through the edit was the timeline.

What is your point of view on breaking the fourth wall?

Putting everything in context and having a modern lens on it helps to make it understandable to new audiences. It was also very helpful for pacing.

Was there ever a proposal to do this as a series?

We’ve been doing this for 12 years, and always saw it as a movie.

Will, tell us when you got involved?

I got an email from David Wain to check out a script. I’ve known David for a while, and love everything he does. When I read the script, I knew this was something I needed to do.

Do you outline?

We’re big outliners. We like to develop and block scenes, and then start writing a bunch of pages. It doesn’t really come together until we read it.

Some writing partners get in a room and work together, but that’s not what worked for us.

How long was your first draft?

Our first draft was approximately 120 pages.

How important was it to hear your table read?

We were a month out, but it triggered a hell of a lot of work. It was important for us to hit emotional moments. We ended up having to take out a bunch of jokes to help the emotion to surface. It was a challenge because these characters did not want to show vulnerability. Working in comedy, my instinct was the end each scene on a joke, but it was undercutting the story.

Tonally, one thing we knew was that we weren’t writing a comedy, but a tragedy about a comedian.

How long was your shoot?

Our shoot was 28 days, as well as 3 reshoot days.

Listen to Jeff Goldsmith’s interview with the filmmakers behind A Futile And Stupid Gesture in its entirety here.

Check out the film’s trailer below.

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