THAT AWKWARD MOMENT
About The Production
There comes a time in every relationship, according to writer and director
Tom Gormican, when a couple reaches the point of no return, an instant at which
they can move forward or let go, but either way, they will never be the same
again. In That Awkward Moment, which made the prestigious 2010 Black List of
unproduced screenplays, three longtime buddies grapple with that turning point.
Gormican penned the screenplay because he was interested in the idea of
making a romantic comedy with a twist-the story would be told from the guys'
point of view. Using his years as a young, single New Yorker as a jumping off
point, Gormican spun a story about three very different 20-somethings enjoying
life in the big city while trying make their marks professionally and socially.
"There's a lot of noise in people's lives these days that skews our
understanding of relationships," Gormican says. "The question we're exploring
throughout the movie is what it actually means to be in a relationship. That's
what launched this entire thing."
The project took a huge leap forward when Zac Efron became involved. He
learned about it from producer and Treehouse Pictures President Justin Nappi,
with whom he had worked on the 2012 family drama At Any Price. While travelling
together in France, Justin pitched Zac on the idea of a classic rom-com seen
from a uniquely male perspective. Efron not only signed on to star in the film
but also joined as an executive producer while the script was still in
"The story allows guys to see their side of the situation and it gives girls
a new perspective on relationships," says Efron. "And we all get a chance to
laugh at ourselves and our friends in the bargain. I thought it was a really
In addition to working with Gormican to continue developing the script, Efron brought
in his production company, Ninjas Runnin' Wild, and his partners Jason Barrett
and Michael Simkin also joined as executive producers. With Zac's commitment to
star in the film and Justin and Treehouse's commitment to produce and fully
finance it, the filmmakers were able to lock in talent deals and make That
Awkward Moment Treehouse's first film with both domestic and foreign pre-sale
"Zac really trusted the material," says Gormican. "He and his colleagues have
been great sports and real partners in getting this film made. They were ready
to do whatever we needed them to do."
Efron and Miles Teller play best friends Jason and Daniel, perennially
unattached players for whom the nightclubs and cafes of lower Manhattan are a
happy hunting ground, full of beautiful and ambitious young women. When their
longtime friend Mikey, played by Michael B. Jordan, splits with his wife, Jason
and Daniel welcome him back to the pack enthusiastically.
"New York City is an incredibly fun place to be a single guy," says the
director, who began his career with boutique production company GreeneStreet
Films in Manhattan. "Jason and Daniel are comfortable hanging out without much
responsibility or emotional connection. What's important to them at this stage
in their life is their friendship. Like a lot of people, they are expecting that
everything will eventually come together at the same time. If you get the job
you want, then you'll have the relationship you want. The simple fact of the
matter is that's not true."
It's an attitude that Gormican says he sees in a lot of younger people today.
"Both guys and girls are a little disillusioned with dating and getting married
and progressing towards some sort of conventional path," he notes. "Jobs are
scarce for people just out of college, so they have to be career focused. Both
girls and guys are less interested in deep, intense emotional connections,
especially in a city like New York where that could hold you back."
Mikey, on the other hand, is a long-term relationship kind of guy and his
marriage is ending. He isn't sure he wants to get back onto the world of
partying with the guys and trying to pick up girls. "Mikey's the guy who wanted
to be on track as early as possible," says Gormican. "He went to medical school.
He married the 'right' girl. But things don't always work out the way you want
them to. Now, he's going through a divorce."
Mikey's reluctance to dive back into the dating pool moves Jason to propose a
pact between the three friends. The inspiration for their agreement came from a
truly classic comedy. "I remembered a Shakespeare play called Love's Labour's
Lost," Gormican says. "In the story, a group of guys decide to swear off women,
but then they all meet girls and they start lying to each other about it. I
thought it was an interesting idea that could be updated really effectively.
When Mikey gets dumped, instead of saying, that's terrible, his friends say
great, you've come back to us. Come into our world. This is the place to be. And
they make this pact not to get emotionally involved with any of the women they
hook up with."
But the plan backfires almost immediately, as each of the friends
unexpectedly finds himself embroiled in what could be the romance of a lifetime.
"So, of course, they start lying to each other right away," Gormican says. "They
deny that they are involved, but eventually all of the lies start to come out.
They start to realize that the pact is both stupid and irrelevant. It's time to
admit that they are past that time when hanging out is the most important thing
in the world. In a way, it's a very realistic coming-of-age tale about guys in
Gormican subverts the classic boy meets girl with a sly new twist, when Jason
meets Ellie, his unlikely dream girl. "There is a longstanding tradition in
romantic comedy, and even dramatic narrative, that people cannot end up together
the first time they meet," says Gormican. "They have to not like each other
initially. But I thought, that's not realistic, especially in places like New
York and Los Angeles. What happens now is you meet someone, you have a great
night and you hook up. People told me not to do that in a movie, and I thought,
why not? It's realistic. It doesn't mean either of them is slutty. It means that
they're two people who found a connection one night, and then have to deal with
That aftermath is an embarrassing misunderstanding on Jason's part that
almost sinks his chances with Ellie before he even gets started. Gormican
remembered an article he had read a few years earlier. "At the time, the economy
was in the toilet," he says. "According to this article, some girls were making
money at the cool, downtown bars by being, essentially, hookers. I thought that
would be a funny element when the complication becomes that he can't afford to
pay, so he sneaks out before she wakes up."
But Jason has jumped to the wrong conclusion and ends up with egg on his face
when Ellie turns up at his office a few days later-as a potential client. "He
screws up, because he's an idiot," says Gormican. "To me, that's realistic,
judging by my friends and myself. Most often, it is the guy screwing it up at
the beginning of a relationship. When they meet again, it's a classic
coincidental movie moment that we played for laughs. The outcome is that they
realize they actually are a good match."
Jason, Daniel and Mikey find many more ways to undermine themselves over the
course of the movie as they struggle to understand what they really want. "The
idea of what a relationship is has been redefined in this generation," says
Gormican. "We have a whole variety of new tools through which to try and
connect. What does looking at people's pictures on Instagram mean? Or talking to
them on IM or on your phone or by text? What about Facebook? Ultimately, I
believe, the most important thing about a relationship is being there for
someone when it's difficult and they need you. That's the universal theme of the
movie that I think everyone should relate to."
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