Will Reiser- Writer and Producer of 50/50 the Movie

I attended the Screen Arts and Culture event where there was a viewing and Q & A with Will Reiser, writer and producer of 50/50 and… Seth Rogan’s best friend, which I was particularly impressed with. 50/50, for those not familiar to the film, is presented as a “humorous cancer story”. Reiser himself had cancer and thought that all the films about cancer previously made were sappy and unrealistic, an alienated middle aged person who gets cancer and reconnects with their family and goes on a soul searching journey to Africa. As Reiser pointed out, his immune system was so weak, “…there’s no fucking way I could have gone to Africa”. So he made a “cancer comedy,” if there is such a thing, and 50/50, I thought, turned out to be a great movie and balanced the humor and the tragedy very well.The parts of the event applicable to this class in particular was his discussion on developing the script. On script development:

  • It took a year and a half to write an outline (his outlining is extensive because he enjoys writing much more)
  • He did a revision of the outline and then sent it to Seth Rogan
  • It then took him a year to write the first draft
  • He submitted it to a director, got back notes
  • Wrote another three drafts over a series of two years
  • He then submitted it to Jonathan Levine (the director) and it was then still constantly being revised as they shot the movie.

My initial reaction was “holy cow that is forever”. But then he talked about how his characters had to develop, he was describing how he “talked to them” and “they talked to each other”. He talked about how he had to discover their childhoods, the relationships between them and their parents, and if they had any siblings or romantic interests. All this for major and minor characters, some of which appeared in only a couple of scenes. This commitment to the story¬†must¬†have taken for ever because he is basically creating a collection of people’s lives. It made me realize how difficult good writing can be, and why this movie was so good; he worked really, really hard and as a result the characters were multi-dimensional and very realistic. Also, the collaborative aspect was really important in writing the script, which is something that is especially present in this class.

I really enjoyed the film and highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it!



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