Don’t Think Twice begins as if it’s a documentary on the art of improv. It explains the rules. Rule 1: Say “yes”. Rule 2: It’s all about the group. Rule 3: Don’t think. Then the members of the fictional improv group, The Commune, violate all those rules, and with dire results in their personal lives. That sounds heavy, but you will laugh all the way through this film — that’s why it’s called a dramedy.
Whatever you call it Don’t Think Twice it takes you on a journey as one member is cast on an iconic TV show, and the others begin to realize that they are not all going to become famous. Their professional lives and personal lives change forever. Darn. That sounds heavy again. It’s a good thing that the cast is full of comedic stars, including Keegan-Michael Key (MADtv, Key and Peele), Gillian Jacobs (Community, Hot Tub Time Machine 2), Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me, Orange is the New Black), Kate Micucci (Raising Hope, Garfunkel and Oates), Chris Gethard (The Chris Gethard Show, Inside Amy Schumer) and Tami Sagher (Inside Amy Schumer, writer for MADtv). They make all that serious stuff hilarious.
I saw the LA premiere of Don’t Think Twice at the LA Film Festival, in its new home in and around historic Culver Studios. After the screening, writer/director Mike Birbiglia and the cast stayed for a question and answer session with the audience in the Arclight Cinema.
The TV show for which one of the members of The Commune gets to audition is called Weekend Live, a spot-on satire of Saturday Night Live. During the film, one of the characters quips, “The real question is whether Weekend Live was ever funny.”
Perhaps the funniest moment during the Q&A was when an audience member asked Birbiglia if anyone from SNL had reacted to the skewering of their show in Don’t Think Twice? Birbiglia said he couldn’t hear. They repeated the question. By the third repetition when Birbiglia started blaming the acoustics, everyone was laughing and knew that that question wasn’t going to be answered.
Several questions from the LA Film Festival audience, which is always full of filmmakers, revolved around making the film. Ironically, for a film that is all about improv, it was carefully and meticulously crafted. Birbiglia said that they did ten table reads at his home. (A “table read” is when actors sit around a room and read the script.) Birbiglia said that he came up with a new version of the script after each reading.
Birbiglia theorized that actors kept coming back for more table reads because of the pizza he served at the end.
This, the meticulousness not the pizza, continued into post-production. “During editing,” Birbiglia said, “we did eight or nine different rough cuts and did remove one subplot which seemed to confuse our early test audiences.”
Birbiglia agreed with an audience member who pointed out that when you film a stage presentation, it often turns out to be boring. He explained that they overcame this by using a steady-cam, so that the point of view would not be from the improv theater audience, but up and personal on-stage with the performers. He did express concern that his cinematographer’s back might still be hurting from carrying the 75-pound rig around.
That technique and everything else he did in this film worked, because Don’t Think Twice is anything but boring. It will premier in theaters nationwide on July 22 and in LA on July 29. The trailer is posted below.