So you wanna make a movie? That’s great — I really applaud the initiative you’re taking. Setting a goal is the most important step in executing a dream, and that goes double in Hollywood. Making movies is hard, and not everyone has what it takes. (That was the point of La La Land, right?) You’ve gotta have an idea, a marketable cast, a studio that supports your vision, a vague idea of what a “grip” does — the list goes on and on. Here’s where I come in: What if I told you that there’s a foolproof way to make a movie? A movie that is qualitatively passable, intermittently funny, and almost always profitable.
It’s called the No Explanation Necessary (NEN) Method, and if you follow our easy, six-step process, we guarantee you’ll come out on the other end with a totally real, totally finished movie. The method was founded in the mid-2000s with trailblazing titles like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers, and The Hangover. Owen Wilson is our founding father, the L. Ron Hubbard of NEN. In the decade since the Great Boom of 2005, the method has produced megahits like Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief, the upcoming Fist Fight (in theaters Friday), and, uh, Hall Pass. Your movie could be next. So what are you waiting for? Get to work on the six steps explained below, and put a down payment on that condo in Sherman Oaks you’ve been eying while you’re at it.
[Disclaimer: The NEN Method in no way promises products worthy of critical acclaim. Some films made with the NEN Method have been described as “occasionally funny and a lot painful,” “wallowing in pee-pee and doo-doo jokes,” and “crappy,” but ALL films made with the NEN Method have been described as “movies.” Side effects include a fedora and possibly having to talk to Jason Bateman on the phone.]
Step 1: Name Your Movie After the Plot
Is your movie about a group of friends who rent a house in the Rockies? Boom — your movie is called Ski Trip. A heist comedy about two deli workers stealing a shipment of bagel toppings? That’s The Caper Caper, obviously. See how this works?
So many movies lose their audience before a trailer even comes out because they’re too afraid to say what they mean. Don’t be Terrence Malick — what even is a Knight of Cups? Your audience should know exactly what they’re getting into by reading your title. Horrible Bosses, Wedding Crashers, Fist Fight, Tower Heist — these are titles to emulate.
You don’t need to make the next Annie Hall; the world already has enough Joe Swanbergs. All you’re trying to do is get a movie made. Stick to everyday situations — a bad day at work, a wedding, a hangover — and regular Joes, toss in some cartoonish, exaggerated humor, and NEVER prompt your audience to ask questions.
Step 2: Find an Affable Star
You’re going to need a leading man, but not just any leading man. He’s gotta be approachable. He must be handsome, but in a “he’s just such a good friend” kind of way. Think less Jon Hamm, more (pre-swole) John Krasinski. Your guy should have a wry sense of humor — sarcasm is a must — that is mildly funny and sometimes irksome. He should be slightly angry at the world and the circumstances he finds himself in, but above all else, he should be able to admonishingly state, “That is NOT what that is for,” anytime one of your more eccentric characters does something stupid and/or wild. Jason Bateman, Ben Stiller, Ryan Reynolds, and Charlie Day — the latter two capable of playing both the affable hero and his zany sidekick — are all A+ choices.
Step 3: Get Dirty
It’s not an NEN movie if teenagers can legally see it without a guardian. Don’t be shy with the dick jokes. Curse up a storm. Go crazy with the nudity. If you have any ideas involving a hot dog, lean into them. That’s another reason why you cast an affable star — people LOVE to see the boy next door get his junk caught in a vending machine. (Clarification: The receptacle makes no difference.)
Step 4: Call Jennifer Aniston
If she isn’t available, any other Jennifer will do — Lawrence, Garner, Love Hewitt, you get the point. In the absence of a Jennifer, an Olivia works: Munn is fine; Wilde in a pinch.
Step 5: Stick It to the Man
If you’ve followed Step 2, Step 5 should be easy. The main character should be dissatisfied with his lot in life. Maybe he was passed over for a promotion yet again, or maybe he’s being bullied, or maybe he’s just so darn sick of the monotony of modern life.
The what is not important, it’s the why. Your protagonist will need to be the underdog in his story because standing up to The Man, so to speak, is an essential development in all NEN Movies. This moment will be either the impetus that kicks off your story or the climax, so don’t forget to include it.
Step 6: Find a Soft Day on the Calendar for Release
Your studio will most likely be New Line Cinema (Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Horrible Bosses 2). You’re going to want to drop your NEN Movie on a day that allows you to avoid stiff competition. Take it from Identity Thief, the most successful NEN Movie to date, whose only competition on February 8, 2013, was Side Effects. If you avoid releasing your movie on the weekends that Marvel, DC, Pixar, or Star Wars have claimed, your affable leading man and easy-to-decipher title will do the rest. “The Caper Caper with Ryan Reynolds? Ooh, honey, that sounds like fun!”
Go forth, you intrepid person, and make a movie that A.O. Scott will call “mediocre entertainment.”