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'Tripped Up': A Story About Friendship (and Screenwriting)

October 19, 2023
6 min read time

They say, “Write what you know.” And that’s exactly what scribes Cristina Catanzaro and Carrie Shaw did. 

Best friends since they were 5, Catanzaro and Shaw tapped out – draft after draft after draft – Tripped Up, a story that is ultimately about female friendship enduring the challenges and transitions that come with life. It hits theaters on October 20, kicking off with a screening in Times Square.

“To be experiencing the biggest moment in my professional life with my best friend is a pretty cool thing,” says Catanzaro. 

“Surreal,” Shaw says, “Insane. Fantastic. Terrifying. Lovely.”

Directed by Shruti Ganguly, Tripped Up features four best friends, each with distinctly different strengths and flaws – chef Lizzy (Leah Lewis), weed lover and cafe owner Kai (Ariel Winter), #influencer Mary (Ashley Moore), and the newly sober Taylor (Sasha Fox). It also features a star supporting role from Vanessa Williams.

The gal pals are all at mid-20s existential moments in their lives, and to help Lizzy’s struggling career they set off – on a whim – to a food festival where Lizzy can show her chops. Adventure, arguments, comedy, love, and personal growth ensue.

The story – for Catanzaro and Shaw – actually began 10 years ago. Shaw (who, in her day job, is a chef and owner of a cafe) and Catanzaro (who, in her day job, works in marketing at HBO) found inspiration in real life: They attended a music festival with friends and had a great time.

“Our friends are so rich and dynamic,” Catanzaro said. “I looked at Carrie and I was like, ‘You write. I write. What if we wrote a movie?’”

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And So the Adventure Begins

At the time that they started, Catanzaro and Shaw both lived in New York City.

“We have fond memories of sitting at a cafe on Avenue A,” Catanzaro says. “We would gather there and [talk about the script].” 

The two best friends found a collaborative process that worked for them. And they had fun doing it. 

“Very rarely were we at the computer together,” says Shaw. “We had an overall arc that we had fleshed out together, and then one of us would take the script for a weekend and adjust a scene, and then we would discuss. 

“Certain characters [spoke to] each of us as we went through it, and so we were like, ‘You take that scene.’ It felt organic.”

Soon enough, they had a draft of a comedy about “friends attending a music festival.” But as every screenwriter knows, writing a spec script offers absolutely zero guarantees.  

Catanzaro, however, knew the game and had connections. She showed the script around at HBO. Soon enough, producers Nina Warren and Linda Evans were asking what the deal was with the script.

“They said, ‘Can we run with this?’” Catanzaro recalls.  

“They knocked on a lot of doors for us,” she says. “There were many times when we thought this was dead in the water. And they would call us and be like, ‘So-and-so is really interested in this. Would you be willing to adjust this storyline?’”

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Pivoting and Persevering

The world, and Hollywood, has changed a lot over the past 10 years, and with that Catanzaro and Shaw say they remained open to adjusting the script.

“At the core, we believed we had some really rich characters,” Catanzaro says. “Had we not been open to pivot, this would not have been done. We had to pivot a million times. And then as the world evolved, we evolved.”

Eventually, Catanzaro and Shaw changed the script from a music festival to a food festival – which allowed Shaw’s professional perspective to inform the script. The characters, too, changed from older millennials to younger millennials.

Catanzaro and Shaw changed, too. 

“There were moments where I carried the ball for a little bit,” Catanzaro says, “then I had a baby and Carrie carried the ball for a little bit.”

Despite the changes, Shaw says, the humor and perspective remained. 

“I think we’re both funny,” Shaw says. “We have a shorthand that can only come from knowing each other for 30+ years. The banter is there.”

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Putting Egos Aside in Production

After Ganguly came on board for her feature directorial debut, the project picked up steam.

Soon enough, Lewis (Nancy Drew), Winter (Modern Family), Moore (I Know What You Did Last Summer), and Fox (in her feature debut) joined the cast. 

“They understood the assignment,” Shaw says of the four actresses. “Their suggestions and improv were just as good if not an improvement to some of the lines. And they were able to become comfortable with one another and have this banter that was just fantastic.”

The production of the script was also another chance for Catanzaro and Shaw to find a balance between remaining true to their vision and being open to change. 

“We got to this point by being collaborative,” Catanzaro says. “My nature and Carrie’s nature is, we’re pretty good at putting our egos aside and doing the best thing for this project.

“During the table read, there was one moment during the fight between the four women, and they said, ‘You know what? I don’t believe this is the impetus for this. This doesn’t seem like something my character would do.’ And we had a big conversation. 

“And then the four of them met one night,” Catanzaro says, “and they wanted to be alone, and they fleshed out the fight, and they kept the heart of it and most of the lines. But they definitely put their own spin on it. And when we saw it in rehearsal, we were like, ‘Wow. They really took it and ran with it, and it felt really personal.’”

Shaw was also able to bring her expertise to the set. In a “foodie movie,” she says, “Have someone to authenticate what’s happening. ‘No, the sous chef would never hold their knife like that. This is the language they would use.’”

Enjoy the Moment

Now that the movie is hitting the silver screen, Catanzaro and Shaw are having fun.

“We just got back from a five-day vacation in Mexico with all of our friends who helped out in this,” Catanzaro says. Will it turn into another script? Maybe. 

For now, Catanzaro and Shaw are both working on their own projects. But, “We will definitely be working together again,” Catanzaro says.

“There was a real security in having someone else to go through this with,” Shaw says. “The whole process has made us closer and strengthened our relationship.”

The most important thing they learned?

Perseverance,” Catanzaro says. “If you think that you have a good idea, keep going and find people who believe in it. And just keep going.”