The Brockmann/Gaffney family is a media dynasty in the making. Their credits, individually and collectively, include writing best-selling and award-winning books, writing, directing, producing and – in Jason’s case – starring in an Off-Broadway play and movies. There is an abundance of talent in the family – their daughter is also a writer.
I’ve been hooked on Suz’s books since she started writing the Troubleshooters series. After seeing a performance of LOOKING FOR BILLY HAINES in New York a few years ago, I’ve been following Suz, Ed and Jason’s adventures in the world of film-making. I’m very excited about the release (on December 3rd) of THE PERFECT WEDDING on DVD.
Suz: Back in January, 2013, my husband, Ed Gaffney, blogged here on Romance University about the differences between writing a screenplay and a novel.
See, in 2010, Ed, and our son Jason, and I began a family collaboration on a screenplay called THE PERFECT WEDDING. We wrote it (we all plotted and outlined, but Ed was in charge of the first draft, while Jason and I were in charge of shouting at him!), we revised it (again lots of shouting involved!), and when we had a working draft, we loved it so much we decided to produce it ourselves.
We have a production company called small or LARGE Productions, and previous to this, we’d produced an Off-Broadway play and a very tiny super-low-budget movie. We knew from our limited experience that we’d need a barge-load of help with THE PERFECT WEDDING, so we found a director with production experience, and together set out to find and hire a 50+ person cast and crew.
We filmed the movie in June 2011, in Sarasota, Florida, over the course of twenty-one extremely busy days.
Ed talked a bit in his blog about how a screenplay gets rewritten in just about every phase of the production and post-production process–which was both weird and wonderful.
As novelists, we’re God. Revision notes are “suggestions” that we’ll consider and then use or discard, depending on whether we think those changes will make a better, stronger, more compelling book.
As a screenwriter, though, we’re one of a crowd.
And as a writer-producer, I was as close to the God-type decision-making process as I could be, but decisions about the movie were still made through consensus with my fellow teammates. Weird, like I said, and wonderful.
THE PERFECT WEDDING was shown at its first film festival before the film was finished — and we all took notes on the changes that still needed to be made!
But finally the film was done. It wasn’t long after that that we found distribution–a rare thing for an indie film! But Wolfe Releasing, a major LGBT movie distributor, fell in love with our little rom-com movie, and we struck a deal for them to release TPW on DVD, via internet streaming and download, as well as on-demand.
That’s been a long, strange journey, and we’re happy to answer questions about the differences between releasing a book and releasing a movie if you have them, but today we’re going to focus on what I think of as one of the most important elements in the writing/creation process: the passion behind the project.
It all started, as most creative efforts do, with a little outrage and an idea.
Ed: I received the outrage in a phone call from Jason. At the time, he was living in New York, and he was looking for movies with gay characters that resonated with his life as an out and proud, well-adjusted young man. He couldn’t find any.
Apparently, all of the dramas were either tragedies centered around AIDS, or painful coming-out stories. For Jason, who came out in the late 90s at the age of 15 to a family and circle of friends who were proud and happy and fully supportive, these stories, however powerful, just didn’t connect with his experience. And the comedies – Jason’s personal preference – were either chock full of stereotypes (and usually focused on somebody in the closet), or sex-romps. And nearly all of the humor in the movies came from the characters’ sexuality.
“Why can’t there just be a good, romantic, funny movie about a couple of guys like me, who have families who support them, who fall in love?” he asked.
It was a good question.
And then, I realized that while Jace was talking, I was thinking about – of all people — Bill Cosby. I’ve been a fan of Bill Cosby’s since I heard him do his stand up bit about Noah and the Ark. I went on to get all of his albums (if you haven’t ever heard “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With,” you should do yourself a favor and listen to it immediately). But it wasn’t his brilliant comedy that made Cosby come to mind — it was the fact that he was African American, but he never made jokes based on the color of his skin. The Cosby Show was a sitcom about a black family, but it wasn’t a black sitcom. It was just a funny show about a family – the humor had nothing to do with race.
And I realized that’s what Jason was looking for – a romantic comedy about a couple of guys who fall in love, where none of the conflict or humor came from their sexual orientation. No jokes about anyone being in the closet, no jokes about being gay. Just a sweet, funny love story about two men.
Next came a phone call to Suz.
Suz: Jason’s enthusiasm was contagious. And even though I was on deadline for whatever book I was writing at the time, I found myself brainstorming plot ideas for the sweet little boy-meets-boy rom-com that Jason wanted to write.
Jace’s initial idea was to use the standard romance “marriage of convenience” trope: two people who are not romantically connected have to pretend to be a couple, in order to XYZ (Avoid humiliation in front of an ex, win money from an inheritance, fool the bad-guy, etc. etc.). As a category romance author, I’ve written a number of “marriage of convenience” books, and the outcome is usually that the two people who are pretending to be in love actually fall in love, right?
Jason wanted to use that oh-so-familiar storyline in a screenplay about young gay men. The idea was to write the movie that Jason himself wanted to see — complete with all of the familiar rom-com movie essentials we could possibly include, like the obligatory family charades game, the crowd of supportive friends and family members with subplots of their own, the scene at the end where everyone piles into the car to keep the hero’s love interest from getting away. (Think Notting Hill, or Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
Usually, in a storyline like this, the ex-boyfriend character (Paul, in our movie) is the antagonist or the troublemaker.
As we brainstormed, I suggested to Jace that we spin the story a teensy bit (not too much, because our goal was to write a very familiar-feeling romantic comedy for two gay men), and make the ex-boyfriend, Paul, be our protagonist. And instead of the “pretend couple” (Roy and Gavin) falling for each other, Gavin, (the friend who is recruited to pretend to be Roy’s boyfriend) actually falls for Paul instead of Roy. Throughout the movie, Gavin of course assumes Roy’s still in love with Paul, and Paul assumes Roy’s head-over-heels in love with Gavin. Hi-jinx, as they say, ensue.
(We knew we’d have to include a journey for Roy so that he’s not alone and sobbing at the movie’s HEA ending between Gavin and Paul! We make it very clear that (despite Gavin’s confusion) Roy’s vehemently not interested in reuniting with his ex-boyfriend Paul. Nor does he have anything other than feelings of friendship for Gavin.)
We got Ed involved as we hashed out other details: Why is Roy forced to come face-to-face with Paul again?
Well, Roy happens to be one of Paul’s sister Alana’s best friends. And she’s invited Roy (and her other bf, Vicki) to her parents’ home for Christmas–and Paul is gonna be there. Together they’re all going to plan Alana’s impending June wedding. Alana needs their support, because she wants a small, intimate wedding while her mom has started talking about three hundred guests, giant tents, and trumpet fanfares.
We plotted out a juicy subplot for Paul and Alana’s parents (played by James Rebhorn, who is best known for his roles in Independence Day, and TV’s White Collar, and more recently, as Carrie’s dad in the Emmy-winning Showtime series Homeland, and Kristine Sutherland who played Joyce Summers AKA Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and a sweet subplot for Alana and her fiancé Kirk, too.
So there’s a huge cast of characters in THE PERFECT WEDDING, as well as plenty of conflict, but everyone is loving, accepting, and supportive of all three young gay men.
This is life in Jason’s modern America — where having a gay son is (correctly!) normal, and where love is love is love.
Ed: We knew that we were cutting against the grain. An independent movie without explicit violence or sex, aliens, bank robberies, time travel or tragically dysfunctional relationships? Why put gay characters into that kind of movie if you aren’t going to take advantage of their sexuality to add some kind of edge?
But that was exactly what we were going for – a movie about gay characters that was edgy, because it didn’t use their sexuality to create edginess. Family and friends get together for a few days around Christmas, and three of them are gay. And you know what happens? No one in the movie cares, mentions, or questions for a moment that Paul, Gavin and Roy are gay. Instead, a new romance begins, a young romance is presented with a surprising opportunity, and an older romance faces a difficult challenge. And one of the romances happens to be about a couple of guys.
So how is that edgy? In the same way that a simple sitcom about a black family was revolutionary.
Suz: Our message was, “We’re here, some of us are queer, and the messiness and joy that come from making a connection and falling in love are exactly the same as everyone else’s messiness and joy!”
And young men like Jason, who grew up in a rainbow-filled corner of the world similar to ours, surrounded by support, love, and acceptance, will finally see a reflection of their own happy lives in a movie.
Well, a Hollywood rom-com reflection. Complete with a charades game and a frantic, full-family chase to the bus stop. :-)!
THE PERFECT WEDDING is available as a rental and a download via WolfeOnDemand, and will be released on DVD on 12/3/13. Watch the trailer and download the movie at www.ThePerfectWeddingMovie.com To pre-order the DVD go to https://www.wolfevideo.com/products/perfect-wedding-the/?R=1435
P.S. Jason was busy filming a TV sitcom pilot, so he didn’t have time to contribute directly to this blog, but he’ll be popping in to say “Hi!” and answer questions throughout the day on 11/22.
Suz will send an AUTOGRAPHED ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of her upcoming release DO OR DIE to a random winner!
Do you have any questions about the screenwriting, filmmaking, casting or film distribution process? Suz will be here in the morning, Ed will join us later and Jason will check in when he can. We welcome your questions!
Audra North joins us on Monday, November 25. Her topic is “There’s no business like show business”
Suzanne Brockmann is a proud PFLAG mom and the New York Times bestselling author of fifty-three novels. Her favorite is the one where her most popular character, gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy, wins his happily-ever-after and marries the man of his dreams. Called All Through the Night, this was the first mainstream romance novel with a hero and a hero ever to hit the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. In 2007, Suz donated all of her earnings from this book, in perpetuity, to MassEquality, to help win and preserve equal marriage rights in Massachusetts. Known for her hunky Navy SEAL heroes, Suz is also the author of When Tony met Adam, a romantic e-novella published in celebration of the repeal of DADT. Her next romantic suspense, Do or Die, will be released in hardcover and e-book by Ballantine Books and in audio by Blackstone Audio (formerly AudioGo) on February 4, 2014.
Ed Gaffney is the critically-acclaimed author of four legal thrillers published by Bantam/Dell, the latest of which, Enemy Combatant, was a finalist for the EDGAR Award. He also co-wrote and produced a full-length play named Looking for Billy Haines, which ran off-Broadway for approximately 10 weeks during the spring of 2010. Earlier this year, Ed became an award-winning filmmaker, when The Perfect Wedding, a feature film he co-wrote and co-produced won the Bud Abbott Award for Best Feature Length Comedy at the Garden State Film Festival. And most recently, he became a finalist in The Writers Store TV Pilot competition with his original script, Unpunished. He lives in Florida and Massachusetts with his wife, New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann.
Jason T. Gaffney was born in New York, grew up outside of Boston, performed his first professional acting job in Alaska, returned to Manhattan for a run as the tap-dancing lead in an off-Broadway play, and now lives in LA. As the son of two writers, he knew when he called and said, “I have an idea for a screenplay,” he’d be taken seriously. A proud member of SAG/AFTRA and AEA, Jason brought the actor’s perspective (and his tireless energy) to the writing and producing process of The Perfect Wedding. He’s a graduate of AMDA (NYC) and received his BFA in Musical Theatre from The New School. Jason performs regularly in LA with his improv troupe, Pregnancy Pact, and his latest project is a web series called The Comedy Minute.
— DO OR DIE, in hardcover, 2/2014
— THE PERFECT WEDDING, on-demand 11/5/2013, on DVD and via streaming 12/3/2013
- Ed Gaffney: Screenwriting vs. Novel Writing
- #AwkwardNotAwkward: Why I Couldn’t Wait to Write a Gay Sex Scene with my Gay Son by Ed Gaffney and Jason T. Gaffney
- The Basics of Collaboration with Loved Ones by Suzanne Brockmann
- Second Chance Romance by LuAnn McLane
- Lynne Marshall Presents: Is There a Secret to Creating Likable Characters?