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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Don’t Think Twice

by writer/director Mike Birbiglia

A few years ago my wife Jen came to one of my improv shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City and made this observation:

“Everyone onstage is equally brilliant, but somehow that person is a movie star and that person is on SNL and that guy lives on an air mattress in Queens.”

I remember thinking “Not only is that an astute observation about the unfairness of life, but it’s also a movie.” I could see the whole film. A Big Chill-esque ensemble comedy set in the world of an improv theater that has just lost its lease. A group of best friends in their 30s confronting the idea that not everyone is gonna make it after all. And to me, improv is a great metaphor for life. The basic rules of improv are:

1. Say yes.
2. It’s all about the group.
3. Don’t think.

These, to me, are principles that have helped me in being a filmmaker, an artist, a parent, and a husband. So that was the jumping off point.

And then, to be honest with you, part of the reason I made the film was that it was a film I wanted to see. I feel like comedies with true drama are something of a lost art form I fell in love with films like Hannah and Her Sisters, Broadcast News, Almost Famous, and Bob & Carol and Ted and Alice. I was asked by my producers to come up with some more recent references, but there aren’t a lot. Beautiful Girls?

Anyway, when I go to the movies I want to laugh and cry and laugh and cry and then think and talk with my wife about it for a week—or a month—or for the rest of our lives. To me that’s what separates film from TV. As filmmakers we try to introduce characters, place you in their shoes as they struggle, and reach some sense of resolution. All within 90 minutes or so.

Not easy, but we took a stab at it.

Which is why I’d urge you to see the film in the theater. To laugh with strangers. To cry with strangers. Maybe bring a few friends and go out afterwards to talk about how your group of friends has aged through the years. How you feel like there are things in life that you feel like you deserve more of, or less of. If anything, it’ll be a great jumping off point for a discussion.

Life isn’t fair, but it is funny.