Seth Rogen is best known for his comedy performances as an actor in Knocked Up, but he’s also an accomplished screenwriter. In this video he and co-writer Evan Goldberg discuss some of their tips for budding screenwriters. The duo have collaborated on a long list of comedy screenplays including: An American Pickle, Sausage Party, This Is the End, Superbad, Pineapple Express and Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising.
While their specialty is comedy, they’ve got some great tips for any screenwriter. The duo like to pick an idea or premise they’re really passionate about and say it will help you follow through to the finish line. Ideas can come from anywhere and these screenwriters find inspiration from characters, premises or even movie titles. While the three act structure is their default, they break all kinds of rules.
It also helps to have something relatable in order to connect with your audience. Feature characters who are changing and ensure there’s a cause or mission that gets your audience to root for them. You also have to try and experience things as your characters would. Their recommendation is to put yourself in the viewer’s shoes and calibrate your experience accordingly.
When it comes to improv, Rogen says some scenes are more predisposed to it than others. This also extends to the actors… some are good at thinking on their feet, other aren’t. Don’t go in as if you’re relying on improvisation on the day.
It’s also important to operate within your film’s boundaries… “there should be a line”. Speaking about Sausage Party, the two discuss what the rules are about who or what can talk. Sticking to these guidelines helps keep your world intact for the viewer.
The first and last scene of a film are often the hardest to write. Ask yourself what you want people to leave with. Also, be prepared to go through many drafts… Rogen and Goldberg have been through up to 50 drafts of a screenplay.
Finally, try not to be too precious about your writing. Rogen suggests you “demystify the act of writing”. Don’t deliberate for too long. One of the best pieces of advice Rogen received is that “a script is not a work of art”!