I have mentioned this delightful Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending on my blog a few times. I first saw it a little over a year ago on Netflix, April 2015 to be exact, and have watched it a half dozen times since. I’ve posted a Deleted Scene from the movie, as well as dedicated a Music Break post, and I still listen to the awesome soundtrack regularly.
Well, it so happen that today is Stanley Weber‘s birthday, the French actor whom I discovered from this movie. Last year I posted a Birthday Tribute in his honor, and this year I’m delighted to have a Q&A with the movie’s screenwriter David Solomons!
When a struggling publisher discovers his only successful author is blocked he knows he has to unblock her or he’s finished. With her newfound success, she’s become too damn happy and she can’t write when she’s happy.The only trouble is, the worse he makes her feel, the more he realizes he’s in love with her.
I’m not always a huge fan of rom-coms, but many of my favorites are usually British rom-coms. Not Another Happy Ending is so darn charming with an effortlessly funny, likable cast. The Scottish aspect, the witty dialog, cast and Glasgow scenery, is really what makes this a fun movie to watch repeatedly.
Quick bio on David per NosyCrow.com:
David Solomons has been writing screenplays for many years. His first feature film was an adaptation of Five Children and It (starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard, with gala screenings at the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals). My Brother is a Superhero is his first novel for children. He was born in Glasgow and now lives in Dorset with his wife, the novelist Natasha Solomons, and their son, Luke.
I had the privilege to get a bit of insights from David about this film, how he came up with the idea, and how he handled the casting switch of the male lead. Check out the Q&A below:
1. ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ was your third feature film. What was your background before you got into screenwriting?
I was working as an advertising copywriter in my home-town of Glasgow. I’d say that working to a screaming deadline for highly demanding clients who want to squeeze every last drop from the budget is excellent preparation for entering the film business as a writer.
Director John McKay with Karen on set
2. What inspired you to write this story? In the behind-the-scenes video, I thought you said you came up with the idea during a blind date? Would you elaborate on that?
Ah yes, the blind date. Not only did I acquire an idea for a film from that evening, I also met my future wife, Natasha. At that time she was studying for a Masters in English Literature at Glasgow University and bounded into the restaurant and my life. She was doing some work that touched on the relationship between creativity and depression, and, as you would when hearing about the miserable lives of poets, I immediately thought what a great idea for a romantic comedy.
3. You also wrote a novel version of this film, what’s been the biggest challenge of writing the same story in both formats?
The challenge is accepting that what works in one medium sometimes doesn’t in another. For instance, it had always been my intention to start the film with Jane and Tom getting together and splitting up within the first five minutes. I thought it would be funny to subvert the rom-com trope of keeping the boy and girl apart until the end, and I like stories in which characters have history together. And that’s how we shot it, but no matter how much we recut the sequence it didn’t play. So we ditched it and now there’s a more conventional beginning. However, in the novel it works a treat. I suspect it has something to do with the novelist’s ability to depict his characters’ thoughts. We get more of a sense of these two people than we can in the crash-bang first five of the film.
4. I’ve always been intrigued by stories about writers and I love the character Jane as the protagonist. Are you happy with how Jane is portrayed in the movie by Karen Gillan?
I love Karen in the film. I think she is a really special actress. She is whip-smart, endlessly enthusiastic, treats her craft with utter professionalism. She’s got terrific comedy timing and has that indefinable movie star glow.
5. In the ‘We Are Colony’ bundle, there are a lot of deleted scenes that involve the male lead Tom Duval. I feel that his character is a bit under-developed and now I realize why because so many of his scenes were cut. How do you feel about that?
I put all the deleted scenes into the novel!
Stanley & Karen in one of the Deleted Scenes
6. I read that Tom was going to be played by a Scottish actor, but as Stanley Weber is French, was it difficult to rewrite his role to accommodate the casting switch?
I seem to remember that when we cast Stanley we did a draft that explained how he had come to Scotland to run his own publishing company. I have a feeling that one of the deleted scenes you mention above was an expositional moment that was ultimately cut. In the end it was decided that the exposition wasn’t necessary or got in the way. As for changing dialogue to accommodate Stanley, I don’t recall making any substantial alterations, apart from that he lapses into French in moments of high anxiety.
7. As a screenwriter, how much did you collaborate with the director (and actors) during filming?
Sometimes as a screenwriter you feel (or you’re made to feel!) as if you’re intruding on the business of filmmaking. However, making Not Another Happy Ending was a very happy experience. John (McKay), the director, was hugely welcoming, including me in everything from early rehearsals with the actors to costume fittings, etc. In fact I would have been on set throughout the entire production except that I had to leave because my blind date (remember her?) was due to give birth to our first child smack bang in the middle of the shoot.
David on set of NAHE
8. Lastly, what tips would you have for aspiring screenwriters?
Going back to your question about collaboration, I’d say that it can come as a bit of a shock. I’m not sure that as a debut writer you can be prepared for the process. What I mean is that the one thing you want above all, i.e. getting your screenplay into production, necessarily entails losing control over it. And that’s a good thing! Seeing a talented director and cast bring your characters to life is an amazing experience. Once pre-production begins your role changes. It’s now all about serving the good of the film. You have to be adaptable, fleet of foot (in the writing sense) and sometimes that means making compromises. That scene you love with the camels on the Orient Express? Can we make it one guinea-pig and a model train?
Of course, if reading that make you uncomfortable, then there is a solution: become a writer-director. But you’ll still have to lose the camels.
And one last piece of advice. Stay healthy. Not Another Happy Ending was picked to close the Edinburgh Film Festival that year. It was the highest accolade and promised to be a fabulous night – a chance for all of us to celebrate the culmination of what had been a long journey. I gather it was an amazing night, but I wouldn’t know. Instead of walking the red carpet I was lying in a hospital bed at the other end of the country. So, y’know, take long walks, breathe fresh air, eat five-a-day, and don’t miss out on your world premiere.
Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen ‘Not Another Happy Ending’? I’d love to hear what you think.