[watch] Framed Improv: How Ghostbusters Became GHOSTBUSTERS


I don’t typically like to play favorites here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of my new favorite video essayists is Michael Tucker, whose Lessons From The Screenplay YouTube channel has only been around for a couple of months but in that time has produced a trio of truly insightful film analyses from a vantage point most essayists don’t deal with: the screenplay.

Screenplays are origin points, they are where stories begin, where they develop, and where they evolve into some sort of final form. You don’t shoot a movie over and over, and you don’t edit it over and over. All fundamental changes happen on the page, which is why scripts can go through dozens of drafts over a handful of years. But in these drafts is a story greater than the movie itself: the story of the story. By setting his focus on the screenplay, Tucker is granted insight other essayists don’t get because they start with the finished product while he’s still poking around the roots.

His latest essay on Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ script for the original

GHOSTBUSTERS is another stellar piece sure to grant a new perspective on a film most of us have seen too many times to count. What he reveals is a screenplay that isn’t as strong as the film that came from it. This shouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone given the kind of talent involved with the picture: Aykroyd and Murray came out of Saturday Night Live and Ramis had been working in comedy for just as long, first with National Lampoon, then with Canada’s version of SNL, SCTV, and later alongside Murray as a writer in MEATBALLS and CADDYSHACK and a writer/actor in STRIPES; improv was to be expected. But what couldn’t be improv-ed, as Tucker reveals, was the concept of the story and the frame in which it was told. It was to this framed narrative that the personalities of the film’s characters were added by the actors, and it is this amalgam of talents that led to GHOSTBUSTER becoming GHOSTBUSTERS.

As we’re on the verge of the polarizing new film from Paul Feig, it’s the perfect time to look back on exactly what made the original so wonderful. And for those of us who only have the highest expectations and hopes for Feig’s film, it’s nice to remember that it wasn’t a solo effort that made GHOSTBUSTERS the classic it is, but the combination of a handful of super-talented, super-funny people working in harmony. Sounds a lot to me like the project Feig has amassed…

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist