'The To Do List' Premiere: Raunchy Comedy Brings Back the '90s on a Budget
“I think if you have a great piece of material, you just try and get it made at whatever level you can,” producer Jennifer Todd tells THR about making the Black List project.
At the Los Angeles premiere of CBS Films’ The To Do List, director Maggie Carey appeared onstage with a list of her own.
Carey’s remarkably long list was filled with people to thank for helping to create a passion project that was clearly a collective effort.
With a microbudget of $1.2 million, The To Do List, a comedy about a type-A high school grad looking to gain more sexual experience the summer before she enters college, goes against the grain of a cinematic summer landscape inundated with superhero tentpoles and action-centric 3D blockbusters.
“The film is set in 1993, and sometimes I felt like we were paying the crew and actors ’93 wages,” Carey tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh.
The impressive ensemble cast includes Carey's husband, Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader, and Aubrey Plaza, who met Carey years prior at UCB improv classes.
“All of the talent Maggie knew personally and reached out to, so everyone did the movie as a favor,” producer Jennifer Todd explains.
Andy Samberg, who plays a laughably 90s grunge rocker complete with shoulder-length hair and a total lack of musical ability, recounts how he was casually asked to join the project while on set at SNL.
"Maggie came up to me and said, 'Hey, do you wanna be in my movie?' and I was like 'Yes.' Bill might have primed me like 'Hey, Maggie may ask you to be in her movie.' And I was like, 'All right, yes, that would be great!' "
"It was a testament to her script and her energy as a director that people wanted to do the film," adds Todd.
The producer details that she and Carey took the script to bigger studios that either didn’t want to make it on a larger scale or wanted them to tone down the film’s extra-raunchy narrative. However, The To Do List won a coveted spot on the Black List, Hollywood’s compilation of the year's best unproduced screenplays.
“I had been looking for years for a movie where I could give a hand job,” Parks and Recreation actress Plaza jokes, adding, “It was one of the funniest scripts I have ever read, honestly.”
With Plaza and Hader in tow, The To-Do List was then taken to the Austin Film Festival in 2011 for a table read and was workshopped, after which CBS Films agreed to buy the rights a day after financing was obtained.
“I lucked out that Brian Robbins [the film’s other producer] had a deal with CBS Films to do some low-budget comedies,” says Carey. “He made some deal with CBS and 12 hours later we were financed, so it was a process to get to that point, but when it happened it happened quickly.”
The To Do List seems to be the little movie that could, overcoming one of Hollywood’s greatest obstacles: a lack of funding.
“I think if you have a great piece of material, you just try and get it made at whatever level you can,” Todd explains.
The To Do List also stars Clark Gregg, Connie Britton and Rachel Bilson and opens July 26.