Don't Make Me Go' Script Writer on Storytelling
July 13, 2022
Don’t Make Me Go is a road trip full of life lessons and of course, a few screenwriting lessons for you. It’s a father/ daughter buddy comedy. It’s a coming-of-age flick. It’s also a whole lot of fun with a side of, you just might cry.
Final Draft caught up with writer Vera Herbert who has been working on getting the script out there for the past ten years, on her personal journey to put some of her own world on the page.
Road trip movies are one of the more classic subgenres within the comedy space that come with a number of tropes. Don’t Make Me Go is no exception. Herbert spoke on what she loves about the genre:
“It’s so fun being in a new place. Road trip movies also usually require a partner to get through the trip, characters who are stuck together and have to be in it for the long haul. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is actually one of my favorite movies. No matter what, on a road trip you are going to have to get into deeper parts of a relationship between two people.”
Herbert was inspired by personal life events and past traumas to write the screenplay. It shines through in the high stakes of the story, with John Cho’s Max Park being diagnosed with a progressive brain tumor acting as the inciting incident of the movie:
“My dad died when I was eighteen, very unexpectedly,” recalls Herbert. “It was a defining moment in my life and a driving force in terms of stories I wanted to tell. I fictionalized scenes, but I did pull from my real life. Going to a nude beach together, some stuff like that (and a surprising number of people told me they had a similar experience). I really wanted to tell a father/ daughter story with inspiring moments from my actual life.”
Using real-life stories served Herbert well as both characters feel authentic, lending a hyper-realistic feel to the movie. Herbert encourages other writers to ‘go there.' “I think, don’t be afraid of mining your own life. I think there could be a line there. It’s obviously traumatic for someone to re-experience some things, but the more specific the memory, often the more relatable it is.”
Don’t Make Me Go also hits on a fair amount of coming-of-age tropes. There’s first love and heartbreak, but there’s also middle-aged love and how to navigate bad news. There’s the thrill of sneaking out to parties, and the excitement of gambling for the first time ever with your Dad. This gives the movie a fresh feel while still embracing fun coming-of-age tropes.
She continues, "One of the more unique ones that surprisingly is not frequently embraced on-screen is learning to drive." Herbert spoke of why she wanted to focus on that unique moment when you get some freedom:
“The handing over of the keys is so symbolic. You become more trusted and in charge. It’s also some more freedom for a parent when their kid gets this opportunity to start living a little bit more of their own life.”
Much like the hopefulness of potential that comes with learning to drive, Herbert hopes that is what audiences take away from her movie: “I am hoping that people can see that even though it’s about a tragedy, it ends with hope. I think all of us are going through trauma right now. The past couple of years has seen a lot of collective tragedy. But being able to turn a tragic event into something hopeful helps you carry on with life. I hope it’s a reminder to find it within yourself to use the love you have for someone to keep going.”
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/