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Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Coleman Hough have been friends since the early 1990's. Over the years, Hough would occasionally send him copies of the one-woman shows she wrote and was performing in at various theatres and workshops in New York.

"During the summer of 2000,” recalls the writer, "I was working at a website called Lovesite.com and feeling incredibly cut off from my creative life. I wrote down a conversation that I'd had with a friend one night about a 40th birthday party I'd been to of hers, and a gift that I gave her which she hated. A year later she told me so. It was so crazy I just didn't understand it and had to write it.

"Then I wrote another scene with the same two women based on another conversation with a friend who had met a guy on the internet and had gone out and bought all this new underwear. I was in an acting class and I did those scenes for the class and they were a big hit. So, I wrote two more for men and then I showed it to a friend of mine who is a stage director and it turned into three scenes for men and three scenes for women.

"When I showed it to Steven, he suggested turning it into a film.”

What appealed to Soderbergh about this kernel of a script was the fact that Hough "had an interesting way of revealing character through dialogue. She has a gift for the way people talk in that it's full of half-remembered ideas, nonsequiturs and has the lack of cleanliness that real dialogue has. When you watch most movies, including a lot that I've made, people talk in a way that's very ordered. And that's not how most of us speak extemporaneously. I liked that she has an ear for those sorts of natural rhythms. To create the sloppiness with which most of us speak actually takes real discipline.”

Hough remembers sitting down with Soderbergh and "very simply mapping out nine 10-minutes scenes, which, when put together, became the first draft. Steven called and gave me some notes and I sent him my second draft, which is when he started putting his spin on it. It wasn't that much different from what I had written, but it was framed and book-ended. And then he invented other intriguing things which happen during the course of the story.”

Says Soderbergh, "we wrote out a structure, based on how many characters we thought the piece would have. There would be characters that were common to each scene, but the idea was that almost all scenes would be just two characters - except for the ending where everyone collides, which is an old Fellini trick. 

"Fellini often conspired to have all of his characters collect in one space near the end of the film and I always thought that was a brilliant idea, so we appropriated that. Interesting things happen when you start putting your characters together in a confined space and they have to interact.

"Early on, Coleman and I discussed the idea of this birthday celebration being the goal that every character has – to be there. Some of them make it and some of them don't, but that was everybody's intention – to be present for this party.”

"It was a real treat to work with Steven,” says Hough, "because he has such a clear vision and he's a master at structure. I learned so much about making and writing a film by doing this.

"The story didn't start as layered as it is now. It evolved that way. It definitely stayed true to my first thought, which was how people are always trying to connect. And they don't really connect – they miss. And we yearn so 13 much for connection but it's like we're walking around in such disappointment all the time. We're waiting for things to happen and they're really happening now.”

Or as Soderbergh sees it, "I think like most of us they are all looking for ways to connect, even when they're sabotaging themselves. The notion they all share is that they're trying to connect with other people, but how that is expr

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