Kevin Goetz is joined by writer and director Will Gluck to discuss crafting comedy on screen and the intricacies of the testing process. Will Gluck has had an impressive career directing hit comedies like Easy A, Friends with Benefits, the Annie remake, and the Peter Rabbit films. He’s also been behind popular TV shows such as The Michael J. Fox Show.

In this candid, and often hilarious conversation, Will discusses his journey from TV writer to film director, his process on set, experiences testing movies with audiences, and thoughts on the state of romantic comedies in theaters. Will brings a valuable perspective as an audience-focused director who constantly shapes his films based on feedback.

Thoughts on Comedy, Improvising, and Reworking Scenes

Will talks about why he gravitated to comedy, his thoughts on improvising, and why he loves to rework scenes:

“I guess, growing up I always liked to be funny. It’s a way to get away with a lot of things. I think if you’re going to psychoanalyze me, it’s a way I get away with not doing things is to be funny about it.”

“That to me is what feels the most realistic and that’s the most fun for me. Say, well, I know we wrote the scene this way. Let’s stop, let’s write the scene really quickly. You put it over here and redo it and that’s my superpower, that’s not superpower, my micropower, and that’s what I love doing.”

Catching a Break in Hollywood

Will shares a hilarious story of how being a terrible driver for the head of a production company led to him getting his first writing job:

“I ripped his door off his car in the CAA parking lot and he had to drive back to his office, holding the door shut…He gets to the office, he drops the door, it falls off into the ground, and he says, fix the f***ing door and I fixed the door.”

Transitioning to Feature Films and Involving Family

Kevin and Will discuss Gluck’s filmography including Easy A, Friends with Benefits, Annie, and the Peter Rabbit films. Will explains why he chose to make the movies he did, and the important role his family played in those decisions:

Gluck’s Upcoming Movie Anyone but You

The pair discuss why chemistry between leads is crucial for romantic comedies, and Will talks about casting his new film, Anyone but You:

“I don’t believe that anyone can fake that kind of movie. They’re both the best and that was one of the first movies that was just us three making the movie and they continue to be the best.”

Working with Tom Rothman and Sony

Gluck discusses his long history working with Sony Pictures and executive Tom Rothman:

“I never felt like they have a different agenda than making the movie successful. I never felt like, oh, they’re going to screw up my movie, they don’t want to do this because I know that all they want to do is succeed as well.”

Film Focus Group Feedback and Evaluation

Gluck asks Kevin about screen testing and evaluating audiences. Kevin discusses his commitment to neutral, unbiased test screening reports, and they talk about how even great films get some bad feedback.

Kevin on his commitment to the testing process:

I would be lying to say that people didn’t try to move me in a certain direction. But the reason that I’ve been doing this for three and a half decades is, I think, as Tom actually said this, true north. I really believe that I have to stay like Switzerland, neutral, and take that noise, which I find it to be noise in, and know that I have the information. So, if the probe might come naturally, I would work it in. But I’m not going to manipulate any results ever in favor of a studio or a filmmaker.

Tune in for a fascinating insider’s look at the world of test screenings, and Will’s experiences in both film and TV. Make sure to check out Will’s upcoming romantic comedy Anyone but You, starring Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney.

Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.

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