Writing Durrty: The Recession Rom-Com

January 29, 2009

We here at Modern Jackass have learned the hard way that when you’re working on a Romantic Comedy screenplay about ballin’ Korean, Indian, black and white iBankers going models and bottles at clubs in the Meatpacking, massive layoffs at the world’s largest investment firms that cripple the financial industry could take the sheen off your once-timely, zeitgeist riding film.

But when life gives you a paradigm shift you get back on that keyboard and start banging away at a new treatise for new times.  Which is why we here at MoJaMa are worried.  We’re worried the economic recession that has gripped New York (and therefore at least 45% of the world’s potential screenwriters) in the past 6 months will result in a glut of economy-themed romantic comedies.  What will add fuel to the fire is the grotesque amounts of money “He’s Just Not That into You” will bring into the box office – recession be damned.  The democratic party and heartbreak are the only growth industries these days.

Yesterday’s New York Times had an article by Ravi Somaiya called “It’s the Economy, Girlfriend.”  The piece is the most recent installment of a current trend in New York journalism, which is to use the following equation to generate topics, interests and readership.

Recession + Lifestyle Element = New Ways of Seeing Things

You, too, can play along at home.  For example, let’s take:

Recession + Child Rearing = New Way of Seeing the Nuclear Family

Or you can just cut to the chase and set your sights on the elephant in the room:

Recession + Sex = New Ways to Evaluate Male Perforomance Amidst Financial Insecurity

Other potential topics include:

Recession + Fashiong

Recession + Homosexuality

Recession + the term “Recession Special”

In “It’s the Economy, Girlfriend” Ravi sits down with a support group called “Dating a Banker Anonymous,” comprised of women in their late twenties who must cope with the strain the economic downturn has put on their marriages to men in the financial industry.  The pressures are very real, and very high-stakes.  One divorce attorney attributes the rising number of separations during economic hardship to no more “funds or time for mistresses any more.”

The situation is ripe for romantic commentary within the framework of a romantic comedy (Rom-Comm-Rom-Com), which is exactly the problem.  When reporters like Ravi do all the leg-work and publish their findings, lazy “screenwriters” can lift freely from the reporter’s work and dress the theft in fiction.  There are only two groups of people who have the right to this story: the reporter who covers it and the men and women who live it.

Unfortunatley, there are no “ethics” in Entertainment, otherwise it’d be Ehntertaincment.  People will appropriate this story into their protean templates for “the definitive romantic comedy,” they’ve been writing since their sophomore year in college.  To  make matters worse, many of the women in relationships with bankers dabble in the frivolous fields of commerce like writing, publishing and producing.  These women will be pitching tales based on their own experiences to agents and development execs already inundated by similar screenplays and treatments by people who just happened across the idea and saw in it an opportunity to turn a quick buck – people exactly like you and me.

So as the Cranberries said, “Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?”  What follows, a breakdown of how to get your Recession Rom-Com off the ground in a matter of minutes.

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