Interview with Screenwriter Nathan Zoebl (HAPPY FUN TIMES)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nathan Zoebl: A group of disaffected twenty-somethings plot to get rich by suing an amusement park after scheming for one of their crotchety, terminally-ill grandmothers to accidentally die on a dangerous ride. It’s Throw Momma From the Train meets Adventureland, and it’s about a colorful group of bottom-feeding characters on the fringe of life becoming an unexpected team for a very questionable goal. It’s about fun characters behaving badly in a weird place.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s definitely a Dark Comedy first and foremost but we also consider it a buddy film as well as workplace ensemble.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I feel deeply in my bones that it would find a rabid audience that would appreciate and celebrate this ridiculous movie. I want this movie to come to life because I want this story to exist regardless of whether my name was on it. I don’t feel like there’s anything else out there quite like Happy Fun Times and I think it has meaty parts that great comedic actors would kill. I also know it can be made for “Hollywood cheap!”

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

“Insanely funny.” How’s that? Do those words count too? Oh no, I’m doing this wrong.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

I have a healthy love of bad movies, so it’s likely The Room at this point, a film I notice something new every time I watch it.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

From start to finish, this was one of the fastest scripts we’ve ever written. Within a week of being hired to write this story, we had 9 pages of notes and ideas and jokes. It was an amazingly fruitful process where we made one another laugh to the point of tears. Within three weeks in the fall of 2017, we had gone from initial premise to finished script. It has gone under some revisions and tweaks, as most scripts do, but the core is still the same from draft one. It was one of those rare writing opportunities where things just felt so natural and we were driven by our creative excitement for the project.

7. How many stories have you written?

Personally, I’ve been writing screenplays since I was in high school. My writing partner Ben Bailey and I have been writing steadily together for about seven years and have amassed a dozen scripts/pilots/outlines and even more shorts. We like to stay productive and enjoy working with one another. We even prefer to write with one another physically present in a room, which I’ve discovered is by far the minority work method when it comes to writing pairs.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

I don’t know if I have a favorite song per se but some bands I’ve been getting into include Mother Mother, Sleeper Agent, Dirt Poor Robbins, and Phantogram.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Tone was a major consideration given that we were asking for the audience to go along with characters plotting to profit from murder. How far could we go and still make the characters likeable even if maybe we weren’t fully rooting for them to pull off their big scheme? We had to consistently ask whether we had lost what made us care about the characters at various points and correct missteps so that it didn’t go too far in any wrong directions. There are many ways a dark comedy can go bad, and it can be easy to pander when it comes to Shocking Elements, so we tried to navigate a safe passage that balanced the tone we desired to have fun with the weird and macabre but also maintain a sense of heart on its own terms.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’ve been a film fan ever since I can recall from my first memories. I love movies and experiencing stories and I enjoy writing them, making them, and writing about them.


11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

I have nothing but positive experiences about the platform and its ease at connecting artists to festivals and contests.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I had heard good feedback from several other screenwriting friends and thought it might be a strong fit. The feedback we received on Happy Fun Times was extremely gratifying and a confirmation that we might have something special here. Hearing from people that they felt this was “one of the best specs out there” makes me hope that others might agree and Happy Fun Times will eventually find the right person who says, “Yes, this! Of course, this!”

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

When a young man learns of a theme park’s policy to give out large cash settlements to guests who lose a family member whilst at the park, he conspires to take his ailing grandmother on one last ride.

CAST LIST:

Kevin: Ted Powers
Narrator: Val Cole
Liv: Veronika Gribanova
Colin: Wilfred Lee