Writer/director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta shares the secret to writing a great romantic comedy

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Karla Souza and Ben O’Toole in Everybody Loves Somebody. Photo courtesy: Draco Films

Writer/director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta’s new film, Everybody Loves Somebody, tackles the rom-com genre in a sweet yet cerebral way. It’s the story of Clara (Karla Souza from How to Get Away with Murder), a beautiful doctor who’s got everything together except her love life. Clara also straddles two cultures, taking frequent trips to visit her family in her native Mexico. Clara also seamlessly switches between English and Spanish throughout the movie, giving the narrative a fresh vibe, while also feeling very authentic.

Anyone who’s tried to write a rom-com knows it’s incredibly difficult and the genre seems to have lost favor in Hollywood, who’s putting its money into R-rated comedies like Why Him? and bankable sequels like Bridget Jones’s Baby. We asked Mastretta what motivated her to write and direct a rom-com.

“I love the genre so much. It’s what I grew up on. When Harry Met Sally is like my Bible.”

Even though rom-coms aren’t made as often anymore, Mastretta says they still appeal to everyone.

The right guy, or is he the wrong guy? It’s the age old question in love stories. Photo courtesy: Draco Films

“The mystery of how or why we fall in love never gets old. It’s very universal. Rom-coms will always be around because they are mirrors to our experiences. It’s always fun to watch them and see yourself in them.”

In the film, Clara’s parents are finally getting married after decades of being together. This was something Mastretta plucked out of her own life.

“My parents have a very good marriage, they’ve been happy together for 40 years. But they didn’t get married until six or seven years ago. They didn’t throw themselves a huge white wedding, that part I made up, but they did randomly get married after being together all those years and I thought that would be a good setting for a movie.”

Mastretta’s biggest challenge with the script was trying to keep the audience guessing as to which man Clara will end up with after she unwittingly finds herself in love triangle with two very different men: the adorable Asher (Ben O’Toole) and the bad boy from her past, Daniel (Jose Maria Yazpik).

“With a love triangle, you always seem to know where it’s going, so I wanted to make both characters interesting and well-rounded, but at the same time keeping it in fantasy.  What I like about the rom-com genre, at least the ones that are successful, is that they all feel very grounded in reality, the feelings seem very honest, but everyone is little bit nicer, wittier, better looking than in real life. That small fantasy edge is what’s important.”

Sometimes families complicate things. Photo courtesy: Draco Films

Mastretta’s advice for writing in this genre is, “Keep it honest. I think the reason so many rom-coms have failed in the past few years is that – and maybe this is a judgment I’m making – that the people making them say, ‘Oh I’m making this movie so people can turn their heads off.’ But for me, it’s the exact opposite. These movies are very serious. They’re about something fundamental in all of us.”

The secret to making a great rom-com, according to Mastreatta, may surprise you. She says, “You need to put yourself in them as if you were writing the most gut wrenching drama. It needs to be that intense for you and that personal.”

Good advice, but isn’t it supposed to be funny, too?  “The comedy will come from the pain.  The funniest part in this movie is when she’s talking to her ex-boyfriend and everything’s nice and civilized and then she’s bawling in the next scene.  That’s where the comedy comes from, the happiness and the sadness that comes from love.”

Everybody Loves Somebody had it’s world premiere at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January and will open in theaters February 17.

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Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

3 Replies to "Writer/director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta shares the secret to writing a great romantic comedy"

  • comment-avatar
    Reggie February 17, 2017 (7:54 am)

    This is a typical category mistake that punishes if not destroys whole genres: this is not a movie for the big screen, but a simple TV drama! Even not a good one but more the in-house production of a little network with an older audience. I would be angry as hell if I’d spent money for a ticket in a theater for this cheap and clichéd crap. I’d love to write rom-com, but not like that. Rather like ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ by the great Nancy Myers with the equally fantastic Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. That’s worth to leave you home, head to the theater and spend money for tickets and soul food!

    • comment-avatar
      Eva October 22, 2017 (7:35 am)

      Which movies have you written and produced? I’d love to compare…….

  • comment-avatar
    Sean Martin March 21, 2017 (6:03 am)

    Reading this after being reminded of your questioning the genre in your screed on BEAUTY ON THE BEAST. You really like working both sides of the aisle, dont you…

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