Monday, November 28, 2011

Shotgun Wedding

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Premise: After 10 years of waiting for her boyfriend to propose, Sam has had enough. She grabs her shotgun, points it at her deadbeat other half, and threatens him that if he doesn’t marry her today, she’s going to kill him.
About: This script finished on the lower half of the 2006 Black List. It should be noted that this is a first draft, however it is the draft that got Shotgun Wedding on the list with 6 votes. The writer, Zehnal, has seemed to focus most of her career on TV and is still looking for that breakthrough career hit. She wrote an episode of 2002’s That 80s Show, and recently worked on the 2010 show, “True Jackson, VP.”  EDIT: One of the commenters pointed out that a newer version of this script sold to Dreamworks a couple of years ago.
Writer: Tiffany Zehnal
Details: May 22, 2006 – First Draft (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

The best way I know how to express my opinion on Shotgun Wedding is: I don’t get it. I don’t understand this type of writing. And the question I keep asking myself is, “Is this a gender thing?” Rom Com Girl. If you’re out there, can you help me with this? This premise just hits me as ridiculous. A woman forces her husband, at gunpoint, to drive to Las Vegas and marry her? As a scene? A SINGLE SCENE?? I could see that working. I was actually laughing when Sam first pointed the gun at Wyatt. But as time went on, I realized that this wasn’t going to be one scene. IT WAS GOING TO BE AN ENTIRE MOVIE!

I checked out right there. I mean I kept reading, but from that point on I felt like I was the one who had the gun pointed at me. Comedy is a weird beast, as we’ve discussed before. One person’s “funny” is another person’s “stupid.” But regardless of taste, I don’t get these premises where the central conceit is so far removed from reality that there’s no way to identify with the situation at all. Sure, a lot of crazy shit happens in The Hangover, but it’s based around a situation that we’re all familiar with – having a crazy night out where we don’t remember anything. In what bizarre pseudo-universe is anybody going to make someone marry them at gunpoint???

Help me out ladies. What is it about this premise that you like? Is it the wish-fulfillment thing, like Horrible Bosses? Where you wish you could put a gun to your man’s head and force him to do what he’s too much of a wimp to do? I suppose that makes some sense. I did like Horrible Bosses. But I am so far removed from understanding what that must feel like that there’s no way for me to identify or care about this situation at all. And even if I’m going to make that conceit, I still think this is a one-scene premise stretched out to two hours. So with that “ring”ing endorsement, let’s get to the review!

34 year-old Sam has been with her boyfriend Wyatt for ten years and she’s STILL waiting for him to pop the question. But since Wyatt’s a Neanderthal loser, he plans on enjoying his freedom for as long as he can get away with it. Well he’s gotten away with it long enough. On their tenth anniversary, when all signs are pointing towards Wyatt asking her for her hand in marriage, he instead offers Sam a brand new water filtration system!

Well that’s enough for Sam. She grabs her shotgun, points it at her boyfriend’s face, and says to get dressed. We’re going to Vegas to get married.

The script then spends a lot of time trying to come up with stuff to fill in the time before the wedding. We get a lot of flashbacks, for example, of Sam watching much less deserving women get proposed to a lot sooner than she did.

On the road, she calls and alerts her friends and family that she’s tying the knot. But they’re not letting her get away that easy. They want to come to the wedding! So all of a sudden everyone’s planning an impromptu Vegas vacation to see Sam and Wyatt exchange vows. There’s only one problem. Wyatt doesn’t WANT to get married. And he’s using every single argument he can think of to escape this nightmare.

The hijinx continue when Sam realizes they don’t have a ring so she stops off to rob a jewelry store. Now the cops are after them too. They end up running out of gas of course, and some studly trucker picks them up and she pleads her shotgun wedding case to him. We get a scene where Wyatt accidentally shoots Sam’s foot. There’s even a scene where she has to logistically figure out how to let Wyatt go to the bathroom in privacy without him escaping!

Ah but escape he does eventually, and in a random development, Sam befriends some waitress at a diner and then it becomes the Laverne and Shirley show circa 2011! So now she’s got to avoid the authorities, find her “fiance,” find her ring, and find her wedding dress (both of which have been lost along the way) all in time for her big wedding in Vegas. Will she do it? Can she pull off a miracle and actually become a wife after all this?

Oh boy. Okay. Let’s see. Besides everything I mentioned above, this concept has a major flaw in it. We’re not rooting for Sam to succeed! All of us think Wyatt is a moron. He’s not worthy of being with Sam Kenison, much less this Sam, so the whole time we’re like, “Uhhh, okay. Why do we care if this plan succeeds or not?” If we’re not rooting for the main character to succeed, your script has all sorts of obstacles to overcome. I mean that’s one of the cardinal rules of screenwriting.

Also, if the guy our heroine is going after is a moron, then by association, your heroine is a moron too. More than a few audience members are going to be thinking, “Why the hell is she with this loser? She must be a loser herself.” I mean you’re ultimately responsible for your own choices. And if you’re still with a guy who won’t commit to you after ten years, it’s a lot more your fault than it is his. So now I don’t like the main character. I don’t care if she succeeds at her goal. How does a screenplay recover from that?

On top of all this, you also have the issue that the modern woman (or at least the ones who read this site) absolutely hates this kind of setup, where a woman’s entire state of happiness is dependent on getting a man. This actually isn’t something that bothers me because I see variations of it in my everyday life all the time. So I think it’s ripe to make fun of. But I know a lot of women hate this. So now you’ve alienated a big portion of the very demographic you’re targeting.

Was there anything good here? I mean I smiled a couple of times. But it’s hard to get on board with a faulty premise with a character you don’t like who’s trying to do something you don’t care about. The opening is cute. And Zehnal is actually a good on-the-page writer (I loved the opening description of their town – “The kind of town where people get by and then die.”). But I don’t think any writer could’ve made this work. The premise is too faulty.

[x] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Beware the deceptively enticing but ultimately thin premise! The premise that sounds good in a room, but doesn’t have a chance at being fleshed out into an entire movie. I can see the pitch now: “What about a LITERAL shotgun wedding??! Where a woman forces her boyfriend to marry her at gunpoint?” I’d probably laugh at that if I were in the room. But then you start mapping out the story and realize it’s good for about 20 pages and that’s it. I mean how do you expand that premise into 100 pages? There’s just no way. And the number of fluffy scenes in Shotgun Wedding is proof positive of that. Make sure your premise is big enough to handle an entire film!