THE TO DO LIST
Move to the Big City & Write THE TO DO LIST
The To Do List marks the big screen debut of director, writer and comedian Maggie Carey. The Boise native graduated college and followed her love for comedy to the big city, New York City that is -- and more specifically, to New York's Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, an improvisational troupe that spawned the careers of some of today's most celebrated comedians and actors, including Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, and The To Do List's Donald Glover and Aubrey Plaza. Carey honed her comedic skills and segued into a successful career as a writer-director for Television and the Internet.
Carey spent her days in between jobs toiling away on her passion project: an original, raucous screenplay about one high school graduate's journey to adulthood. "The To Do List is a classic coming-of-age comedy about a girl who wants to lose her virginity. What I wanted to capture is that feeling when you're young and you want to know about something. You just want this information, but you really can't know it until you have experienced it," Carey says.
The "information" in question includes the several sexual milestones that main character Brandy managed to avoid in high school.
While not autobiographical, there are moments that Carey relates to in The To Do List. "Every girl goes through a learning curve in high school and/or college when it comes to guys," Carey explains. "This is the story of a girl who wants to know about sex, but is so far away from having sex that she goes about it any way she can. She is more clinical and more studious, versus romantic, about it."
But The To Do List is not just about conquests: "What Brandy learns, though, is that you can't just check things off of a list," Carey says. "There are emotional consequences to (these types of experiences)."
Carey's buzzed-about script ultimately landed on The Black List, a roundup of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays. The Black List invited Carey to stage a reading of the script at the 2010 Austin Film Festival. "I wrote it with Aubrey Plaza in mind, so she participated in the reading. Bill, my husband, did as well because he had no choice," Carey jokes.
Carey and Plaza, who were also friends at UCB, previously teamed up in 2004 for Carey's web series, "The Jeannie Tate Show." Plaza played the delinquent teenage stepdaughter of a woman who hosts a talk show in her minivan. Plaza's performance in "The Jeannie Tate Show" caught the eye of Judd Apatow, who subsequently cast Plaza in 2009's Funny People.
Plaza was overjoyed when she read The To Do List. "I thought it was so funny. There was a lot that I related to. I don't think that I had ever read a script about a girl who is trying to lose her virginity that is realistic and pushes the envelope. There are a ton of movies about guys losing their virginity, but not about girls," Plaza recalls.
"Aubrey has this great, deadpan sarcastic humor. She's known on 'Parks and Rec' for that," Carey says. "With improv, you might do ten different characters in a night so I knew she had this great range."
While the premise was strikingly original, the humor reminded Plaza of Carey's earlier work. "Maggie has a specific sense of humor. Her style stayed the same. She has a specific sense of comedic timing. I can see the similarities between the web videos and this movie. She definitely has a voice," Plaza says.
Hader was also eager to be a part of the film, despite his obvious bias. "She wrote me the part of Willy, which was really nice of her. I don't know why she thinks of me as this weird slacker stoner person," Hader says.
"It's a huge compliment. He loved it," Carey jokes.
Kidding aside, Hader enjoyed the read. "The script was funny and raunchy and new," Hader says.
The response at The Austin Film Festival reading was overwhelming. "The crowd was awesome. A lot of people blogged about it, which gave us the momentum we needed," Carey recalls.
Although the project did not have funding, Carey set up two table reads in Los Angeles and began meeting with potential crew. "I got advice from my manager who said, 'You just have to start acting like this movie is going to happen.' I just started to pretend the movie was getting made," Carey remembers.
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