You may not know screenwriter Jeremy Garelick (@mrgarelick) by name, but I guarantee you know his films. His first big script (along with co-writer Jay Lavender) was The Break-Up, which he followed up with an uncredited rewrite on The Hangover. The first script he and Jay ever sold, originally titled The Golden Tux, is set to come out early next year under the new moniker The Wedding Ringer (#WeddingRinger). Jeremy has been building his reputation in Hollywood over the last decade and is now a successful triple threat: writer, director, and producer.
During our conversation, Jeremy and I discussed sleeping scripts, the secret to a great writing partnership, and why The Hangover was such a successful script.
LA Screenwriter (LA): How’d you get your start as a screenwriter?
Jeremy Garelick (JG): I wrote a script with my writing partner at the time, Jay Lavender, that got into the hands of an agent at William Morris at the time. They wanted to represent us and actually sold the script back in 2002. That’s the script that I actually just finished directing, The Wedding Ringer, so it took thirteen years to make the movie that allowed me to become a professional screenwriter.
LA: What’s the story behind that? Why did it take so long for this to happen?
JG: You know, I think there are a lot of stories like this where there’s a project that is always kind of fighting, and different people are attached to it at different points in time and you’re doing rewrites and rewrites… But you know if it’s a good idea, then it just fights to stay alive, and then it’s timing. When it’s supposed to happen, it happens. So a project is never dead, a project is just sleeping.
LA: How much has that script changed since you originally sold it?
JG: Very little, to be honest. We sold it, and then we did a draft with Todd Phillips and Vince Vaughn. So their input changed the draft, but since that second draft, very little has changed, even thirteen years later, which is pretty amazing.
LA: Was that the first script you’d ever written?
JG: No, it was probably the seventh or eighth script that I wrote.
LA: Has anything happened with those previous ones, or are those all sleeping?
JG: You know what, they’re all sleeping. Nothing’s happened with them, and the truth is, I don’t think I ever went back to those scripts. I probably should go back and read them at some point if I can find them.
LA: You’ve written, produced, and directed. Which of those roles do you like the most?
JG: It’s hard to say. I like doing all of it. There’s benefits and hardships to all of them. I mean, I love directing the stuff I write. It’s great to direct something that you write because you get to see your vision come to life, and sometimes it’s very different from what you thought in your head. Honestly, I pictured Vince Vaughn when Jay and I wrote this script, and it’s Kevin Hart in the movie.
LA: Little bit different.
JG: It’s very different! But it’s the same character.
LA: You’ve written with a few different writing partners, I think.
JG: Several, actually.
LA: Do you prefer writing with a partner?
JG: I do. I love people, and I think — especially in comedy — I think writing with someone or collaborating with people… if you say something that makes someone laugh, it’s probably going to make the audience laugh.
LA: What factors do you think make for a successful writing partnership?
JG: Experience. I think being friends with the person before you start writing is really helpful. I think knowing who the boss is, who ultimately makes the decision. Somebody needs to ultimately be the boss. Because it’s a creative process and there’s no right or wrong, it gets hard to debate something that’s like, “I like blue better,” and somebody else says “I like orange better.” There’s no blue-is-right or orange-is-right, it’s just what you prefer. So you need somebody who’s going to say, “No, it’s going to be orange.” I think that’s probably the most important thing in a writing partnership.
LA: You’ve both rewritten other people’s scripts and had your own scripts rewritten. How do you feel about the rewrite process in the studio system?
JG: I think it works. It works for the movie or for the project as long as there is somebody involved — it’s the same thing as in the writing partnership — as long as there’s somebody involved who has a vision for what the movie is. You know, if there’s a director involved who’s helping guide rewrites, who knows what he’s doing. If there’s a director who has a very clear vision for what they want, it’s a much more productive process.
LA: When you were working on The Hangover, did you have any idea what a huge success it was going to be?
JG: No idea. Todd Phillips was the director attached to the first movie I sold and he and I have been working together for years, so I’ve been a massive fan of his. He’s a good friend of mine, and he asked me to do it with him, and it was just such a great concept, that we got together and it was actually kind of an easy process to rewrite that movie. It was such a good concept that any idea that we thought of, we made it work. Because in that world, anything could have worked. Literally, you could have a naked Chinese guy in the trunk, you could have a tiger, you could have a baby. Anything we said we were just like, “Yes, yes, yes!” and then we just had to figure out how to connect it.
LA: So do you think what made the film so successful was the fact that it was so high concept?
JG: I mean, it had so many things that made it successful. It had the high concept. I think that the script was really good, and I think that the casting was brilliant. And I think that Todd hit his stride with that movie, and it came at a time when we needed to laugh like that. I think all of that made it so successful.
LA: You’ve sold a TV pilot called The Rebels to Amazon. Do you prefer writing for TV or for film?
JG: You know, I think I prefer writing for film just because I grew up watching film, but I’m starting to like watching television a lot more than watching film, so I’m starting to learn TV a little bit more. I think writing for film comes easier to me just because I’ve studied film and I haven’t really studied television.
LA: If you were going to try to break into the world of professional screenwriting today, what would your strategy be?
JG: I would — beyond just screenwriting — I would be making film. I’d be making shorts and posting them online. I’d be writing and making a short once a week and posting it. Because that’s the quickest way to get attention.
LA: What scripts do you think are the essential reads for aspiring screenwriters, and comedy writers in particular?
JG: I’d say The Break Up, The Hangover, The Wedding Ringer…
JG: No, I think that you should just look at the comedic movies that have been successful over the past ten years. You’ve got things like Wedding Crashers and Superbad and The Hangover and Bridesmaids… I think those are the scripts.