JFL 2012: Comedy bootcamp puts film scripts under the microscope

Indie producer Paul Pope and writer Sherry White brought their dramedy Candy Man to the festival for invaluable notes from industry veterans.

Canadian indie producers are used to getting actors to squeeze laughter out of TV audiences.

But the search for a popular Canadian theatrical comedy has producers and screenwriters increasingly in a whole new drama: getting their peers to critique their scripts so they can  be packaged and produced for commercial release.

And the effort paid dividends for Paul Pope of Pope Productions, who along with writer Sherry White brought their dramedy Candy Man to the Just For Laughs festival’s 2012 Comedy Bootcamp Feature Pitch session.

“When you’re working with the writer, it’s precious and great, and you give a script to your girlfriend when you need to feel good,” Pope told Playback.

“But these guys read it and give you their thoughts,” he added after he and White gave a five-minute pitch to a panel of comedy experts, and then had veteran producer Joe Medjuck (Old School) and writer Shauna Cross (Whip It) read and give notes on a script about Stacey, a 37 -year-old woman who attends her 70-year-old father’s wedding in Cuba, where he is marrying a girl half Stacey’s age.

And that feedback zeroed in on the trouble with Stacey’s boyfriend, who tags along on the Cuba adventure.

“There’s an issue in the script about the relationship between the protagonist and her boyfriend. We knew it was there. But they honed in on it like surgeons,” Pope said of the notes from Medjuck and Cross.

“Both went independently for the weakest spot they know. That tells us a ton,” he added.

Besides the pitchfest, Etan Cohen (Men in Black 3) gave a master class in Montreal to spur Canada’s next generation of comedy feature producers along.