Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been collaborating since they met in a bar mitzvah class at age 12. Beginning with 2007’s Superbad, they’ve written films that include Pineapple Express, This Is the End, Sausage Party, and, most recently, An American Pickle. Now, the duo break down writing films in our latest 101 video series, “Screenwriting 101.”
Rogen and Goldberg kick off with a simple tip: Finish the script. “It’s true, finishing something is helpful,” Rogen says. “And, like, pick an idea that you really like. ‘Cause it takes a long time to write a movie, and a lot of energy. And some people lose steam on their own ideas just ’cause they slowly realize they don’t like them as much as they hope they did. So pick an idea that you are really passionate about, and that will help you finish.”
Rogen also explains that ideas can come from anywhere — characters, plots, and so on. “Sausage Party started as a title,” Goldberg adds. “So we went backward from that.” They also stress not to rely on improvisation: “I think some scenes function better than others and some scenes have more opportunity for improvisation than others do,” Rogen says. “And some actors are much better at improv than others and are actually able to create additive material, and other actors are completely unable to do that, and therefore it’s not something you should call on them for or rely on them for.”
“I would never advise anyone to, like, write a scene not great and be like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll improve this better on the day,’” Rogen laughs. “That is not a good strategy. It should always be written as though no one’s ever going to come up with anything better. And if someone does — fantastic! But you should never count on that.”
Later, Goldberg discusses how the last scene in a film is the hardest to write. “You’re trying to say, ‘Here’s the same thing you’ve been enjoying the whole movie in one of the best ways you’ve had in the whole movie, but also, everyone’s changed. So it’s always a little tricky.” Adds Rogen: “It’s also like, what do you want to leave people with? The very beginning and the very end of the movie are both the hardest and most important parts in a lot of ways.”
Our debut 101 video series featured Jeff Garlin giving his take on improvisation. Watch it here.
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