I knew my area of interest for this class would be comedy writing from the start. I also knew my final project would be a pilot script. The trouble at the beginning was determining exactly what that script would be about.
With a focus in satire, I looked back at the early days of film and Hollywood’s golden age to draw inspriration from the comedy greats. I ultimately settled on Preston Sturges – one of the first writers to direct his own scripts, and the director of great films in the 40s like The Great McGinty, The Palm Beach Story, and Sullivan’s Travels.
I mainly focused on Sullivan’s Travels. Written and directed by Sturges and released in 1941, this film tells the hilarious story of a comedy director who yearns to make socially-conscious films. Though his executives insist his privileged lifestyle means he’ll never understand such deep concepts, he goes on a soul-searching mission to find trouble anyway in order to create the dramas he’d like to make. Without giving too much away (because everyone should watch it, especially comedy fans), the film is ultimately a hilarious and touching satire of Hollywood and its players.
Though I’m more interested in writing comedy for television, I was intrigued by the idea of Hollywood satirizing itself – something that, according to letters I found in the Academy library, was quite unheard of when the film was released in 1941. Executives and actors alike were worried about being portrayed as “incompetent” or “people to be laughed at,” a worry that thankfully gave way eventually to films like Sullivan’s Travels. As an aspiring TV writer, I decided to direct my efforts at something that gives both TV and comedy a direct competitor: Reality television.
With an idea in mind, the scriptwriting process was simple. I enjoy writing, and it’s also difficult to feel the typical stress of fourth week when you’re doing work poolside. Though I’m still in LA at the airport and I’m leaving with a good start on a script, I’ll miss this place. And if anyone’s wondering, 85 degrees and perpetually sunny is much more conducive to comedy writing than 16 and snowing.