Ari Graynor (executive producer; plays Katie in the movie): The thing about our movie is, it’s raunchy but it’s also sweet.
Lauren Anne Miller (screenwriter / producer; plays Lauren in the movie): I feel that women who watch movies don’t see enough stories about real women. Katie Ann Naylon and I wanted to tell a story of female friendship. Phone sex was a setting we could tell that in. It could be funny, and have truth to it.
Jamie Travis (director): It’s such a gut thing when you get a script. It was so funny, but I also cried while reading it – and I read it all in one sitting, which was a first. I could tell it was a passion project for Lauren & Katie; it came from a personal place. The short films that I’d made were personal to me, so much so that I can get embarrassed. And here were these two women, willing to expose themselves in an autobiographical story.
Katie Anne Naylon (screenwriter/producer): Lauren and I met on move-in day at Florida State University, where we were a random roommate match. It was Lauren’s first year of the film school, and my sophomore year in creative writing. We were very opposite when we met – right, Lauren?
LAM: Yeah! [Laughs] I had long hair, and Katie just decided that I was like, “Earth Girl,” because I asked where the recycling was, and my boyfriend also had long hair, and a guitar… It was clear from the beginning that we were different people.
KAN: I was like, “Okay, Earth Girl, this isn’t working.”
LAM: But that didn’t last very long – about 20 minutes. We shared a sandwich.
KAN: [Laughs] It took, I think, longer than 20 minutes, but we definitely became good friends pretty quickly. I was a double major, in communications studies and creative writing. We ended up living together all through the rest of college.
Lauren felt that I should go to the film school at FSU; she thought I would like it. But it was too late, because I was close to graduating with my other degree. She was unlike any other friend I had because all my friends just wanted to party and have a good time. I was the life of the party. Lauren’s idea of a good time was, hanging out with a few good friends.
LAM: Katie always made me laugh. We can spend tons and tons of time together – days in a car, driving across the country.
KAN: I feel that this is probably how most relationships that work are; each person wants something that the other person has, and I feel that what I wanted from Lauren was a certain stability that she had. Her moral compass was stronger than mine. She knew her own mind, while I kind of would go with whatever was happening and whoever I was with. She had backbone in a way that I didn’t. I always envied Lauren those things. I think I tried to give Lauren a good time, because that’s my only skill! [Laughs]
LAM: I mentioned film school to Katie because I didn’t feel that it and creative writing were so far apart. I would read Katie’s beautiful poems and stories that she would write, and she would look at my scripts. But we didn’t start writing together until three years after graduation. For a Good Time, Call…was started five years after graduation.
KAN: The writing-together part…well, we both don’t have faith in ourselves all the time. I’m a good cheerleader for Lauren, and Lauren’s a good cheerleader for me. The partnership of doing something together was made so much easier because we had the other person there; “No, that is funny – I do like it!”
LAM: We do write together easily. We always try to keep in mind what we would like to see in a movie. We wanted to make a movie that we’d really want to see – and one that was truthful to how women talk, and how women are funny, and how women are dirty, and how women are friends with each other. And how, within those friendships, they can hate each other for no reason.
KAN: We knew these movies weren’t out there. We saw what Judd Apatow and others were doing, how successful those “bromance” comedies were. It did seem like there was a gap there, but we weren’t necessarily trying to fill it. What we were trying to do was write something irreverent and fresh; we didn’t think of it so much as a female-driven comedy, which it is, but as a twist on a romantic comedy – with the romance being a friendship between two women. Your best friend might be right under your nose, and you hate her because women can be very judgmental and emotional.
The phone-sex stuff is autobiographical more on my end; people in bars always love hearing about this…I worked for a phone-sex company my freshman year in college, in my dorm room with another friend of mine. It was hard to get parking on and off-campus, and I needed a job, and I didn’t have enough student loans. So, working from the phone seemed smart, and doing phone-sex seemed super-smart – and it could be something to talk about at parties. My friend and I had the brilliant idea, since we weren’t making very much money at it, to cut out the middleman and start our own line. It was lucrative, but I was a freshman and had to go to class – and I was very tired all the time, from the night business and the phone always ringing. So I quit that after a semester.
But then, a few months after I moved in with Lauren, I broached the topic with her because I thought I might start doing it again. I brought her these flyers which I thought were scandalous, but which looked like they were for guitar lessons. One of the lines on them was “Girls wanna bone on the phone.” I told Lauren that I was restarting it, and she had her famous line, which – what was it, Lauren…?
LAM: “Keep it quiet, keep it in your room, I don’t want to know about it.”
KAN: But people love hearing about phone sex, and the idea of “What do the guys say?” So for a screenplay that became a way in, a hook, to turn our passion project about female friendship into a reality.
LAM: It was so fun, writing this movie; trying to come up with what the callers would say, what the girls would say.
KAN: We wrote sitting side by side.
LAM: We would alternate writing scenes, and then go through them together.
KAN: And then divide and conquer again. I would try to take credit for the dirty jokes.
LAM: We were falling in love with the characters so much; we enjoyed writing in their voices.
My character of Lauren has a grand plan for her life, but it goes off-track. It’s because of her friendship with the character of Katie – after hating her – that she gets to become the person she could be instead of the girl who stuck to her plan.
KAN: We gave them our own names partially because Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg had written Superbad with their names in it as the characters’. We did it on a lark.
LAM: Yeah, we just thought it was funny.
JT: The script plays up the differences that Lauren & Katie have in real life.
AG: The names are the same, so there are facets of Lauren & Katie’s real personalities and stories in there, but it’s not a biopic of the two of them. [Laughs] Even though Katie likes to joke that it is…
KAN: Well, people say when you’re a young writer or a new writer, “write what you know.” So we did start with ourselves as the framework. How does Katie think? How does Lauren think? Of course, by the time it’s finished, those are not us. Lauren’s not “playing herself,” she’s playing Lauren the character. On camera, she makes the character so likable and relatable. In a lot of ways, the character of Lauren is the audience, seeing the story through her eyes; ‘Who is this Katie? Why is she wearing that?’
When all is said and done, the girls in For a Good Time, Call… are not us – but they are inspired by who we really are, because we knew would get that right and so we had less to worry about…
I’m not a trained actor the way that Lauren and Ari are; I’ve done stand-up comedy. In the same way that Lauren saw herself in it, I saw myself in it with my voice – but it was never going to be me playing the role. I did however give myself an uncredited cameo, because I thought it would be funny – and just in case I ever do want to act. Maybe one day!
The harder parts of writing were, balancing the heart with the raunchy comedy…and, I remember sending the script to Lauren’s dad, and he had a real issue with some of the language in there. So we had to find different ways of saying, “I’m coming,” and other words. But that helped us to not be repetitive. Hopefully it comes across in the movie that Katie helps give Lauren a voice – although the real Lauren sticks up for herself all the time – and Lauren breaks down Katie’s walls and helps her be close to one person rather than acquaintances with 500.
AG: I loved the arc that the character of Katie has; in the beginning, she seems one way and then you realize that there are a surprising amount of layers to her. She has a lot of defenses up, and uses her brash sense of humor as a shield. You think she has all the answers, but she doesn’t; she has so much to learn. There was a lot in the character that I related to.
Both of the characters are in life transition. They are in their late 20s figuring out what they want to do, and they have a lot to give. From an actor’s standpoint, it was exciting, and I also thought, “This is the kind of movie that I would go see!”
LAM: But when the script went out in early 2010, as a spec, although it was very well-received – people loved the writing, and I think Katie and I had 50-60 meetings – no one wanted to make it. They told us that R-rated female comedies didn’t work. Bridesmaids hadn’t even been shot yet, but we knew about it, and we said, “No, no, you don’t know; there’s this movie Bridesmaids, it’s gonna happen.” It was frustrating.
We had a wonderful producer who was trying to take it the studio route, but that’s what eventually led to us making For a Good Time, Call… on our own. I was traveling and was in a hotel room, and I had this sort of Lost in Translation-3:00 AM-moment of the soul, this epiphany that if this was ever going to happen for me then I needed to make it happen for myself. I typed out this long e-mail to Katie saying we have to do this, this is our chance, we can do it on our own, my brother [Daniel M. Miller] will finance it, maybe Ari Graynor will star in it and we’ll be at Sundance next year…