To celebrate mega hit “Girls Trip” being released on DVD, Digital and Blu-Ray we caught up with the film’s writer Tracy Oliver.
— Variety (@Variety) October 13, 2017
Congrats on the success of Girls Trip. Are you surprised by how huge it was?
Tracy Oliver: You know what? I knew that it was going to be successful, because I knew I was hungry for a movie like that, and I knew other people were as well, but I got to tell you, I did not think it was going to be that successful. I did not think that we were going to break records and make over $100 million. I was just like, “This is going to be a really profitable movie.” So, that’s where I was thinking. I’m still blown away that it has made that kind of money.
There has been talks of a sequel, can you give us any scoop?
Tracy Oliver: Definitely talks of a sequel and it really depends on all the deals worked out with the cast but as far as the writing is concerned, I am 100% on board and they’ve reached out to see if we would come back, so I’m definitely interested.
Where are you based right now?
Tracy Oliver: I’m in LA.
How does one become a Hollywood movie writer for those who don’y know?
Tracy Oliver: Well, you have to start by learning the craft of writing. I think when people watch movies, writing scripts seems way easier than it actually is. I think I was guilty of that as well when I was growing up. I would say things like “I can do that, that’s not hard.” Truly, screenwriting is a really difficult thing, I think the hardest part of the business. I’ve shifted and done, casting, directing, just a lot of different aspects of it and I think writing by far is the loneliest and hardest job because you’re starting from scratch, and you have to come up with an idea. You have to come up with characters. You have to come up with a story line that has never been done before, so, it’s not as easy as it seems. The simple answer to that is to read a lot of scripts, take some classes if you can in writing and just learn the craft and study it, because the more you study and read and practice and write, the better that you’ll become at it. Eventually, once you become really good at it, hopefully people will hire you.
How long does it take you to write a script?
Tracy Oliver: It depends. Some scripts are definitely harder than others. On average, I need between 4 and 6 weeks to write a movie, to write the first draft of it. If it’s for the studio, usually … they’re not shooting your first draft, so it could take up to a year. On the low end, or sometimes like several years to get a movie off the ground, and you’re constantly writing and rewriting. I think there were about 17 different drafts of Girls Trip. We went through a lot of different drafts.
Then there are tweaks or more re-writing?
Tracy Oliver: The second and third draft of Girls Trip were some pretty heavy rewrites, of overhauling certain things and starting over in certain places, and then eventually it gets to tweaking at a certain point but … it’s a long process and it’s not fun in the beginning.
For Girls Trip, where did you draw your inspiration from in terms of characters and the story?
Tracy Oliver: My friends and myself. I definitely have friends who were watching it, that were texting me like “Girl you were wrong as hell for putting this in this movie.” Yeah, I took from my drunken experiences of going to concerts and girls trips and hanging out with my friends in college, and threw it into a script, and I think the reason why people felt like the characters came across as black women they knew and they felt like they could be friends with them, is because they were based on real people. I wasn’t making stuff up necessarily, I was writing about people the way that I see my friends and I was drawing certain characteristics … I have a friend who is just like a Dina, who has no filter and says whatever the hell she’s thinking, and might get us arrested at 2 o’clock in the morning.
I think we all have one of those friends!
Tracy Oliver: Yeah, and you’re always about to drop that person but then they do something awesome. Then, you have the annoying mom-like person on the trip that wants to be at the airport three hours early, and makes an itinerary and is micromanaging the trip, and I have a friend like that, so, all of those things were just characteristics that I drew from people that I know and put it in there.
Which character would you say you’re most like from the movie?
Tracy Oliver: I’m probably the closest to Ryan that Regina Hall plays and the reason why I say that is Ryan is very, very put together and polished publicly, but then has a wild side and that’s definitely who I am. When I’m amongst friends and can really let loose, I let loose.
When you write a script, do you have certain actors in mind for characters? Or do you try to keep it pretty vague?
Tracy Oliver: No, I think it helps honestly to write, even if it doesn’t end up being that person, I think it’s helpful to write it with people in mind, because it gives you something specific to write towards and everybody that I put in my head when I was writing dialogue, none of them ended up being in the movie. But it was really cool to see the cast because I was like “This will be even better than what I’m thinking.”
I’m so curious now who you had in mind for each character.
Tracy Oliver: Well, I’ll tell you one. When I was thinking about the role of Dina, all I could think about was Leslie Jones. She just was hilarious to me and has no filter and is loud and says whatever she wants, and you know, doesn’t give a f—, so I was like “Leslie Jones could be a great Dina.” In my mind, I was writing and thinking about her the entire time and then when I was saw Tiffany Haddish, I was like “That’s not what I was thinking but wow that’s an incredible performance.” She played it differently than how I imagined it in my head, but she was so incredible.
With the recent Emmy wins of Lena and Aziz, how exhilarating is it for you to be a writer these days in Hollywood with all of the diversity?
Tracy Oliver: It’s really, really cool. Lena and I kind of came up together as writers, and it’s been incredible to watch her journey and to watch where she started and where she is now, and I’m really, really impressed and proud that the industry is acknowledging black voices and black talent that’s there right now. It’s certainly inspiring for me to watch, and I think it’s a great sign, hopefully, of what’s to come as far as more opportunities and different voices being allowed to have shows and different things on the air.
What kind of project do you want to do next, now that you’ve had a hit movie on your hands.
Tracy Oliver: My dream project is actually one that I’m taking out soon, but I really want to do my own cable television show. Yeah, very much inspired by the 90s shows that I love. I wanted to draw from Living Single and Friends and Martin. Just ensembles of friends hanging together, and I specifically want it set in New York because I have this thing where I’m a little annoyed that almost every show set in New York in the last 10 years, as far as the comedic space, doesn’t have people of color. The New York that I know is very black and brown. I’m originally from the East Coast but people are always like “No you’re not, you’re from South Carolina.” But it’s on the east coast and I think the south has Atlanta, which is a great show and a great tribute to the south, but New York deserves an authentic portrayal of what it means to be young and black, and intelligent, and working in the city, so that’s really what I want to do is a very New York black and brown comedy.