Crafting Character; Casting Katie
The Writers of FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… Find their Calling – and their Katie.
Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, and Katie Anne Naylon explain how the characters of Katie and Lauren spoke to them, pushing them to make FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… -- even when no one was returning their calls.
Katie Anne Naylon (screenwriter/producer): Well, people say when you’re a young writer or a new writer, “write what you know.” So we did start with ourselves as the framework. How does Katie think? How does Lauren think? Of course, by the time it’s finished, those are not us. Lauren’s not “playing herself,” she’s playing Lauren the character. On camera, she makes the character so likable and relatable. In a lot of ways, the character of Lauren is the audience, seeing the story through her eyes; ‘Who is this Katie? Why is she wearing that? When all is said and done, the girls in FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL... are not us – but they are inspired by who we really are, because we knew would get that right and so we had less to worry about… I’m not a trained actor the way that Lauren and Ari are; I’ve done stand-up comedy. In the same way that Lauren saw herself in it, I saw myself in it with my voice – but it was never going to be me playing the role. I did however give myself an uncredited cameo, because I thought it would be funny – and just in case I ever do want to act. Maybe one day! The harder parts of writing were, balancing the heart with the raunchy comedy…and, I remember sending the script to Lauren’s dad, and he had a real issue with some of the language in there. So we had to find different ways of saying, “I’m coming,” and other words. But that helped us to not be repetitive. Hopefully it comes across in the movie that Katie helps give Lauren a voice – although the real Lauren sticks up for herself all the time – and Lauren breaks down Katie’s walls and helps her be close to one person rather than acquaintances with 500.
Ari Graynor (executive producer; plays Katie in the movie):: I loved the arc that the character of Katie has; in the beginning, she seems one way and then you realize that there are a surprising amount of layers to her. She has a lot of defenses up, and uses her brash sense of humor as a shield. You think she has all the answers, but she doesn’t; she has so much to learn. There was a lot in the character that I related to. Both of the characters are in life transition. They are in their late 20s figuring out what they want to do, and they have a lot to give. From an actor’s standpoint, it was exciting, and I also thought, “This is the kind of movie that I would go see!”
Lauren Anne Miller (screenwriter/producer; plays Lauren in the movie): But when the script went out in early 2010, as a spec, although it was very well-received – people loved the writing, and I think Katie and I had 50-60 meetings – no one wanted to make it. They told us that R-rated female comedies didn’t work. Bridesmaids hadn’t even been shot yet, but we knew about it, and we said, “No, no, you don’t know; there’s this movie Bridesmaids, it’s gonna happen.” It was frustrating. We had a wonderful producer who was trying to take it the studio route, but that’s what eventually led to us making FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL... on our own. I was traveling and was in a hotel room, and I had this sort of Lost in Translation-3:00 AM-moment of the soul, this epiphany that if this was ever going to happen for me then I needed to make it happen for myself. I typed out this long e-mail to Katie saying we have to do this, this is our chance, we can do it on our own, my brother [Daniel M. Miller] will finance it, maybe Ari Graynor will star in it and we’ll be at Sundance next year…
AG: I love her chutzpah.
LAM: Katie and I decided that we should both be producers, that I would star in it, and that we would make it independently, because no one wanted to –
LAM and KAN: -- take a chance.
KAN: But women do re-see, re-watch movies again and again and again.
KAN: Women obsess, and things get a following.
LAM: When you make an indie movie, what you set out to do might not be what happens in the end. There were many steps for us to take in finding how things worked. We said goodbye to our lovely producer, who was so gracious. Our managers, Josh and Jen, came on as producers since Katie and I hadn’t produced features before. My brother Daniel came on as an executive producer, and found our money, and Ari came on board as an executive producer. It was an ever-changing process with all hands on deck at all times.
AG: Being an executive producer on the movie – it’s the first time I’ve been involved at this level; I’ve learned so much in front of the camera, and I felt like I had something to offer behind it – and more to learn there, certainly on the development side. I had only recently been given the opportunity to be the lead in a film [in Lucky (2011)], and that was something I’d been looking to do. I’ve been acting since I was 7, and it’s been a slow and steady ascent – fantastic supporting roles, and fun interesting characters. But to go through a lead character’s journey, from start to finish, was a challenge and an opportunity that I was looking for. I’ve been wanting to prove myself in that way. This was something I’d been talking about with my manager for a long time; Lauren & Katie and I are all with the same management company. I came on board this movie in early 2011, but I had been the sent the script about a year before that. I was told, “These clients of ours have written a fantastic script” – and I later found out that Lauren & Katie had written it with me in mind –
KAN: We needed a young female actor who was funny and fresh.
LAM: When we started writing the movie and thinking, “Who can be in it,” I had seen Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and was quite obsessed with Ari after seeing her in it. She is a rare talent.
KAN: I’d seen Nick & Norah’s too. That turkey sandwich moment is amazing!
LAM: Her voice was in my head when we were writing. As soon as we decided to make it on our own, Ari was our first stop.
KAN: She was the only girl for the part. She has great range.
AG: How flattering!
LAM: We sent her this love letter and begged her to be in the movie. Coincidentally, she had read the script many months before; we are at the same agency as well as the same management company.
AG: I read the script, and immediately loved it; I found it such a smart, funny, unique, and surprisingly sweet story about friends. It’s rare to see a film that is so funny and that centers around women – but the central conflict is not about a romantic relationship. Then there’s the fact that actresses are always playing the girlfriend, the wife, the best friend, the daughter – the status of a woman character is defined through somebody else. It was so exciting to read these two really fresh characters, to see them stand alone. They have romances, but their friendship is the focus as they become the best versions of themselves and their friendship develops as they are able to see each other for who they are. You see this so rarely on-screen, even though female friendships are such an enormous part of women’s lives in general. The 2011 draft was pretty similar to what I’d read before, but it was accompanied by this beautiful letter from Lauren & Katie – one of those letters you get where you feel like somebody understands you and really sees you…sees what you’re about, and what you’re trying to do…it made me cry. It’s much like in the movie, what it is like to be “gotten” by somebody.
LAM: She got back to us right away, with an equally lovely letter back.
AG: So then they cried, too.
LAM: I also started running around the house, I was so excited. So then Katie and Ari and I had brunch, and then I ran into Ari at a party a couple of days later – dressed as the Katie in our minds! I thought, “I can’t believe how perfect this is.” That was clear right from the beginning.
KAN: Thick as thieves.
AG: I felt immediately that we would be kindred spirits, which we absolutely were. Being invited to come on as an executive producer was the icing on the cake.