Paula Pell talks SISTERS
“You know, you never know where your source is gonna come, and when you look at boxes of things in your life and you say, you know, ‘oh this is some letter that I wrote when I was young,’ or ‘this is some, you know, report’ or whatever it is from your life, you never know that something might spawn something in your head where you’re like, that person that’s in that letter is a young version of me, or young version of my family, or a friend, that could be something that’s a story in a movie, and I think the problem with show business per se is that everything starts to become an external, like you come from the outside in
rather than inside out, so you’re like, ‘what’s the hot subjects, what are people buying, you know, and the best writing that you’re gonna do is something that you feel something about, that is coming from your bones, so I had this journal, this is my actual journal from when I was thirteen, and, some of the entries that they read in that bathtub in SISTERS are from my actual journal, I like talked about- I stayed up all night every year for the Jerry Lewis telethon, I was like ‘I stayed up for thirty-seven hours!’ I used the word ‘shal’ a lot in my journal, so I kept carrying this around for years, I mean like ten, ten to fifteen years after I got to SNL, and I kept carrying it around to meetings and stuff and being like, I wanna do something with this.”
“I worked with Judd Apatow a lot, and one thing I just love so much about him is he’s just one of those people that when he’s like struggling with something, he’ll go, ‘hey, what do you think about…’ you know, or ‘look at this thing, tell me what you…’ and that’s what you really have to do—with people you trust, like I said, ‘cause some people will just turn on you later and be like, ‘that was my idea,’ and they love to take credit for things, but, if you have a friend that you really trust, or a family member, just say to them like, “read this and give me your opinion,” I do it with my sister sometimes, she’s not a writer at all, and she’ll read something and she’ll go, ‘what if it…?’ and then I’ll just go ‘ahhhh I love you!’ You know, ‘cause it- all I need is that, just that spark to get the fire going.”
Let’s Talk Jokes
“I like to write jokes that have a hard laugh to them you know, but then I also love things that are a building joke that is just a running thing that’s just funny because it keeps going. It’s an exhausting funny that the more somebody does something, the more you’re laughing, and that’s hard to write, ‘cause sometimes it’s too much and you’re like, ‘okay, enough,’ but you have to have a funny person deliver hard jokes, you know, they can’t- you have to give someone that doesn’t know how to do it, it’s really sad.
I came up with a little system that I did a lot, and I did it in SISTERS too, is a post-it note system, is I was afraid to come up to Paul Feig during BRIDESMAIDS, ‘cause, sometimes movie sets have that tension of like, the director’s in his zone, or in her zone and you don’t wanna like keep coming up and tapping, especially since I wasn’t the writer of the script, ‘cause Annie Mumolo and Kristen wrote it, so they wanted me there to pitch jokes and pitch ideas and physical jokes and verbal jokes and so I would write them on a post it note and I’d come up to Paul and just kind of lay it by him, you know, like here’s one, or I’d lay a few down and that became like, my thing, like I have so many from SISTERS, there’s a big vault, we called it the alt-vault, and it was joke-alts and I would just sit and write, you know, for every scene I’d look through the scene and think like now here’s a big punchline, what are four different funnier versions of that, like you just always thinking of the funnier version of that, and then I would give it to him and Judd loved it, ‘cause he, I would put them along the video village and the cart where the monitor is and he just grab this one, and grab that one and go up to the actor and hand it to them and they’d kind of learn it and then when they’d do it, it was the first time the set heard it, you know, ‘cause sometimes when you do alts they yell it out to the actor and then everyone laughs and then there’s not another laugh, you know? Tina said that’s what she liked about it, because you kind of handed it to them quietly so they got to be the one to get the laugh on it.”
Listen to Paula’s On Story® Conversation here.
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