I’ve been thinking a lot about the writer’s voice lately. When agents or producers in Hollywood say they are looking for a writer with “a voice,” what are they asking for?
What is a voice for, anyway? To enable you to speak, of course. Because you have something to say.
I think audiences are hungry for filmmakers who have something to say. I don’t mean they want movies that bludgeon them with a big message, be it religious or political. Nobody wants to be bludgeoned by a movie, they want to be entertained. The problem is that the movie still has a voice – it still speaks something – whether it’s intended to or not.
But sometimes the only thing a film says is, “Look at how I pushed the envelope,” or “Look at how many buildings we can demolish with visual effects” or “Look at how cool/creepy/sexy/tough we are.” Notice how all of those movies are essentially saying “Look at ME.” Those movies are about the filmmakers, not the audience.
When Kevin Downes and the Erwin Brothers acquired Moms’ Night Out, they sat me down and told me about Mandii, Beth and Catherine – their wives. All three of their families had two preschool or younger children, they saw the joys and struggles, and they wanted to make Moms’ Night Out to encourage them. These filmmaker dads had a very specific thing to say to a very specific audience.
When I first wrote the script, I was a stressed out mom of young children too, and I was looking around at my friends and thinking how hard we all work to appear that we’ve got it all together. And that we’d all have less stress if we could throw off that burden. The story was for them because I loved them. I was saying, “Solidarity, sister. None of us are perfect, but that’s okay. We are in this together.”
What Jon came in and added was a voice from his side of the story – the words he wanted his wife to know. “Actually, you are perfect, just the way you are, and we love you for everything you do.” I think that love comes through in every moment of the movie.
So— if you are a writer, do you know whom your story is for? Do you love them? What do you want to them to know?
If you thought Moms’ Night Out was about bitter moms gone wild, or incompetent dads ruining everything, you’ve got it all wrong. This movie is about love and encouragement, pure and simple. From our hearts to yours. Watch this: