Let me tell you a little bit about a guy named Jon Favreau. Does the name ring a bell? The face? “He’s the guy behind the guy” in some films you probably liked. That’s a quote lifted from his breakout screenplay for the movie SWINGERS (1996) in which he also starred. Another catchphrase from that film – “You’re so money…” – was adopted by a certain price comparison site as its campaign line, but we’ll not dwell on that.
Favreau wrote SWINGERS in a fortnight, just as “an exercise” or something to do after his dad bought him a screenwriting computer programme. The plot is far from revolutionary: boy gets dumped by girl, boy is sad, boy meets different girl, boy gets happy! But boy oh boy, did that simple story have a major global impact. That tiny, low-budget independent film became the catalyst for a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Favreau was so broke back in those days that he used his own bleak apartment as the lead character’s apartment and his 30-year-old car as the lead character’s car. He hired struggling actors and friends (Heather Graham, Vince Vaughan) and set the film in the bars they hung out in. He got the friend of a friend (Doug Liman) to direct. It was Liman’s first film; he later went on to direct THE BOURNE IDENTITY.
SWINGERS was a small, word-of-mouth hit. Not many people saw it initially but those who did, loved it. That small “exercise” later led to Favreau being offered the director’s job on ELF, which catapulted Will Ferrell to global stardom. A few years after that Favreau produced and directed the first IRON MAN film. Had that movie tanked, it would’ve been the beginning and end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, it made a film icon out of Robert Downey Jr. and the rest, as they say, is history: $29 BILLION in box-office takings, and counting.
So don’t doubt the impact of a nice little story well told. Everything has to start somewhere.