Since Bridesmaids proved to be one of Hollywood’s megahits, audiences have heard of the growing need for “female-led comedies.” But despite all the talk in the press, getting a female lead comedy greenlit remains an uphill battle. Almost a decade ago, before Bridesmaids had become a launch-pad, Rainy Kerwin found herself frustrated by the roles available to funny women; while the guys had fun misbehaving, women were asked to reign them in.
These lackluster characters motivated Rainy Kerwin to write her own raunchy buddy film, The Wedding Invitation, a story about three female friends on the search for last-minute wedding dates. After struggling with starts and stops on the studio level, Rainey took ownership of the script and decided to direct and produce as a low-budget film (the first of her newly-formed production company “It’s Raining Films”). Along with creating three comedic roles for women, the production also hired an entirely female crew and will donate five percent of profits to women’s charities.
Lesley Coffin: I understand this project was written almost a decade ago, but you weren’t planning to direct the film at that time.
Rainey Kerwin: I originally wrote the script ten years ago when I was first devastated by the comedic roles for women in Hollywood. I was always more interested the boy’s roles, so I thought I’d write a script. And I thought that if I’m going to write a funny role for me, I should write funny roles for other women. So that’s why it focuses on three women. And the script grew from there, and the project had interest from a big director and producer, and we had casting director on board and started making offers to actresses. At that point I planned to play one of the friends, not the lead. But it all fell apart when the money men were confused by the idea of a comedy with three female leads and they said it wouldn’t sell in the foreign market because men are more important in the international market. And it was so frustrating because we were at the finish but couldn’t push it over that line. So I waited a few years to see how things would change, and then three years ago I got dumped and just said “screw it, I’m going to make this movie myself.”
Lesley Coffin: Considering the market just a few years ago, the big change seems to be the loss of small or mid-budget studio films. We have all the blockbuster films made for $60 to $100 million, and we have the micro or small budget films for under a million, but in the middle we have a big gap. Did you notice that change coinciding with your initial development?
Rainey Kerwin: The original film was set up with a budget of $10 million, and that was before Bridesmaids which cost around $30 million. But with the technology we have now, you can make a quality movie on a much smaller budget, but 10 years ago, that just wasn’t possible. It was actually my sales agent who told me right after the film fell through to just make it myself. But at the time, I didn’t know what she meant, I didn’t know how to just make a film. And at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to, I needed to learn more about producing and directing, I needed those extra years.
Lesley Coffin: Were you apprehensive about casting yourself in the lead? Particularly on a first film, it can be tricky to direct yourself.
Rainey Kerwin: I think when I finally decided to make it I was still naïve or dumb enough to take it on. If I’d really thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have done it. And I’d never even made a short, so saying I’d direct myself in this film was risky. But I felt confident because I’ve spent the last eight years working as an acting coach and teaching at a conservatory, so having worked with over a thousand actors gave me a lot of experience. I’m comfortable working with actors on a scene that just isn’t working. It was the technical side where I have less experience, although I’ve always been obsessed with movies. So I worked closely with my DP and was very clear about what I wanted. We really went over the look and feel in great detail. And because of how the project had originated, I think I was trying to make my studio film on a low budget within 19 days, which was a little daunting. But I’ve lived with the story and the characters for 10 years, it wasn’t that scary to tell this story.
Like I said, I was originally planning to play the character Ryan, the role eventually played by Camille Gauty. And original I thought the smart thing would be find a name to play the lead, but I was a first time writer-director on a small budget, so finding someone to come on board was a challenge. And I eventually told my team, I think I should play Lucy. And I anticipated they would say no or that’s a bad idea. So before going to them, I essentially auditioned, I put myself on tape doing a monologue. And there was no kickback, they said I should play Lucy. And then in a bit of synchronicity, Camille was teaching acting and one of her students came from an audition and told her about it, mentioned we were making it with an all-female crew, and she was like “sign me up.” So she reached out to find out to me to see if we were still auditioning and said she would love to come in. And we didn’t have a Ryan anymore so we were happy to see her. And she came in wearing stiletto heels because she’d come from another audition and locked her keys in the car, and when she came in she just nailed the audition. She’s perfect for the role.
Lesley Coffin: Were Camille and Christina feeling the same frustration with the roles given to women in comedies that you felt when you first wrote the screenplay?
Rainey Kerwin: That’s an interesting question because I can’t remember a specific conversation when we talked about it. But I know the Christian Ulloa, because she’s an actress but she’s also been a model. has often been pigeonholed into those types of roles that specifically call for a beautiful person where she doesn’t get to be funny. So I know she really enjoyed getting to play the comedy, she was completely onboard to play the awkward, cringe worthy moments. And as a director, you need your actors to be completely on board, and Camille and Christina were all in. Camille’s had great roles on shows like Prison Break and Scorpion, but to me, she’s a comedic actress. I will say, the actor who plays my love interest Eoin Macken said part way through filming, “I have a criticism of the script, the girls have all the funny lines and I don’t have any.” And at that moment I was like, mission accomplished. It’s never like that in comedies. Will Ferrell or Paul Rudd are hilarious in their underwear, but women always have to be sexy. And I wanted a movie where women could also be funny in their underwear. That was the goal.
Lesley Coffin: You mention being a huge fan of movies. Were there films that were a big inspiration?
Rainey Kerwin: I wanted to take a traditional romantic comedy and flip it on its head. So we have these cliché moments, like the meet cute. We started with the familiar structure, and then mixed in one of my biggest influences, Sex and the City. I wanted so badly for the women to feel real and relatable, and I’ve seen people respond to Sex and the City that way, saying things like “I’m like Charlotte or I know someone just like Carrie.” I wanted the characters to feel real but exist within those frilly romantic comedies, underneath it’s really a female buddy comedy.
© Lesley Coffin (6/19/17) FF2 Media
Photos: Rainy Kerwin directs The Wedding Invitation
Photo Credits: It’s Raining Films