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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 development.

"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 unique idea."

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 distribution.

"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 their 20s."

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 the aftermath."

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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