'Booksmart' Co-Writer on the "Friend-assaince" Taking Over the Screen (Guest Column)

Billie Lourd, Olivia Wilde, Beanie Feldstein, (front row L-R) Kaitlyn Dever, and Katie Silberman - Getty - H 2019
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Katie Silberman weighs in on how offscreen female friendships have shaped strong stories on TV and in film: "If the whole thing blows up, at least you'll have each other."

We've been celebrating iconic friendships onscreen for years, from Lucy and Ethel to Thelma and Louise to Romy and Michele. But right now it feels like we're living in a different kind of creative Friend-assaince — friendships behind the camera are creating most of my favorite content.

From real-life best friends playing best friends, like Abbi and Ilana on Broad City and Maya and Anna on PEN15 to behind-the-camera partnerships like Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones on Fleabag, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland on Russian Doll, and Melina Matzoukas and Lena Waithe on Queen & Slim, women who love one another are making all of the things that I love.

There's a special magic born of a true loving partnership, of two people who are just trying to make each other laugh or who know each other well enough to get right to the truth of the story they're telling. Bridesmaids cut to the heart of a lifelong and evolving friendship because it was written by lifelong friends Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. PEN15 so brilliantly depicts the overwhelming love young women feel for their friends because its creators feel that way about each other.

And it's not just that the relationships they depict feel so authentic and specific, or that the love the creators feel for the characters jumps off the screen. It's also that creating something with a true partner makes you brave. When you're working with a best friend, you take chances and try things, knowing that someone has your back. If the whole thing blows up, at least you'll have each other. In the companion book Fleabag: The Scriptures, Waller-Bridge described director Jones as her "eternal touchstone." Working with a friend like that cracks open a fearlessness and creativity that's impossible to access on your own.

I experienced this firsthand working with my brilliant and inspiring pal, director Olivia Wilde, on Booksmart, and then watching Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever leap headfirst into platonic love while playing best friends Molly and Amy. Making something with your best friend encourages you to try everything, to dig deeper and to have more fun doing it. It's like working with your personal North Star.

So often in this industry there's only room for one lady — in the group of characters headed out on the adventure, in the writers room, in the awards category — but these women are linking arms and buttressing one another and creating space for their team, and we're all enjoying the fruits of their union.

Hopefully, Hollywood realizes the power of this kind of sisterhood. Until then, I'm just excited to see what more friends make.

This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.