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IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

About The Production
Published in 2006 to glowing reviews, It's Kind of a Funny Story, authored by Ned Vizzini, was kind of a funny story – the semiautobiographical account of a teenager's stay in a psychiatric hospital. Striking a chord with readers, the young-adult novel went on to win several awards.

Producer Kevin Misher felt that the book's unpredictable, engaging story would translate into a movie that young audiences would relate to. "Ned's skill at capturing the humorous incongruity of the young man's situation is remarkable,” says Misher. "Because Ned's is an authentic voice, his teenage hero's uncertainties, vulnerabilities, and appeal are all the more convincing – and entertaining.”

Sharing the novel with staff at his production company Misher Films, Misher found Vizzini's story connected with former teenagers as well. He offers, "There are people at my company who are in their mid-40s, mid-30s and mid-20s. Everyone felt like it spoke to the teenager in them.”

Vizzini comments, "The book is from my own life. I've always been able to remember what it was like to be in high school, because I feel it was a very primal social arena. Real emotions come to the forefront in high school. When I write, I just try and not filter any of that, which I think readers appreciate. I also try very hard to have something funny on every page. If you keep people laughing, they will stick around.”

For the book, Vizzini drew from his high school memories as well as his stay in a psychiatric hospital when he was in his early 20s. The latter came about because of the pressures of writing another book after his successful debut novel, Be More Chill.

He remembers, "I called up a hotline number and I was told, ‘If you're on medication and you're feeling suicidal, sir, you have to go to the hospital,' so I found myself in a hospital.”

Inspiration struck, and that experience quickly became his second novel. Vizzini made a few changes to fictionalize his own story. He offers, "It's about 85% true. I made the main character 15 years old, and I added the love triangle; I did not meet anyone, romantically speaking, at the hospital.

"I'm indebted to the people I did meet and get to know at the hospital, and I'm indebted to friends who gave me stories that became part of It's Kind of a Funny Story.”

Once he secured the rights, Misher sent Vizzini's book to the filmmaking team of writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Misher notes, "Since Ned's book spoke to the teen audience, what we wanted to do was find talented filmmakers who would find a way to make the film with a comparably authentic voice.

"What this team did in [their earlier features] Half Nelson and Sugar was to take a world that a general audience may not be privy to, and give it a verisimilitude.”

The filmmaking team loved the book right away. Fleck remembers, "We saw how it could be a movie. Although it was different than anything we had ever even considered, we said, ‘Let's do it.'

"Anna and I loved the character of Craig. He's so open and honest in a way that we weren't used to seeing in teen characters. In our films, we like to explore characters struggling to find their place in the world, and Craig is doing just that.”

Boden adds, "Adding to Craig's appeal was that he's a character who has a self-deprecating sense of a humor – rather than the ironic edge we see so often in books and movies about teenagers.

"Once inside the hospital, he meets a unique group of patients – unlike people he's used to in his everyday life. Through his interactions with these patients, Craig's perspective on his own problems changes and he begins to feel that, with some help from his family and friends, he can embrace his life instead of escaping it.”

Journeyman Pictures' Jeremy Kipp Walker, a producer on both Half Nelson and Sugar, and executive producer of It's Kind of a Funny Story, remarks, "What's consistent with Ryan and Anna's other films is the sense of truth in their human portrayals.”

Of what draws them to the stories they tell, Boden offers, "I think that we're interested in people who have an opportunity to reinvent themselves. Teenagers have to reinvent themselves, because that's what you do when you grow older, but even the characters in our movies who aren't teenagers are going through a transformation.”

Boden and Fleck spent two years adapting the book, using as their touchstone and guide the work of a writer/director whose movies had spoken to them when they were teenagers – the late John Hughes, whose celebrated films include The Breakfast Club. "We tried to make a movie that we would have wanted to see as 15-16-year-olds,” explains Fleck.

Boden adds, "What was amazing about John Hughes' movies is how perfectly they captured all that it was to be a teenager – the awkwardness, the anger, the vulnerability – and he was able to do it in an entertaining way, with humor, that didn't talk down to its audience. In Craig's story, we saw the possibility of revisiting that world, which was both authentic and exaggerated, weighty and fun – the world as teenagers experience it.”

Misher remarks, "What struck me reading the book was that it's a different kind of modern coming-of-age story, yet not unlike some of John Hughes' movies in tone. Today, there are pressures and anxieties not foreseen back then; it's much harder being a kid, much more difficult to succeed and live up to the expectations of parents anxious for you to accomplish something. Out of such angst, of course, oftentimes comes humor, and that's what made this story so right for a movie.”

Producer Ben Browning and his Wayfare Entertainment were encouraged to sign on after Browning read the script in 2008. He comments, "It's Kind of a Funny Story doesn't condescend to anybody, yet finds its comedy in character. It's a warm and humanistic film, emotional and with a lot of laughs. That's the type of picture that rarely gets made any more.

"Through the prism of this interesting place, Craig finds himself. Whether kids or adults, we all can get caught up in the stresses of our everyday lives and not have the objectivity to truly understand the weight of our own problems –and to understand the blessings that we do have.”

The movie version was coming together – and with the full blessing of the book's author. Vizzini marvels, "Right from the get-go it was clear that Ryan and Anna understood the book. They considered things in the story that I hadn't. The script became this beast that they built, and I was so pleased with the results.”

Boden reports, "Ned has been so supportive. Ryan and I would refer to the book, figure out what was the core of a given scene, and write. At a certain point, we felt we had digested everything that was in the book, so our script took on a little more of its own form.”

Fleck adds, "There's lots of scenes from the book that have made it into the movie – but there's a lot of new stuff, too.”

After the adaptation, the task of casting the (now 16-year-old) lead character was the writer/directors' most considerable – and considered – challenge. Boden reflects, "It was important for us to have someone age-appropriate. This was the role we focused the most on; we were concerned about getting the right actor, somebody who was able to handle the drama and the comedy, and somebody who didn't feel older than the teenager he would be playing. Our casting director Cindy Tolan looked at hundreds and hundreds of tapes.”

"That was hard work, finding our Craig,” says Browning. "But I knew that these two had

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