Talking “Meet the Parents” with creator Greg Glienna
When someone mentions the name Gaylord “Greg” Focker to you. There’s a chance you get a fond and funny thought in your head recalling the Ben Stiller character from the movie franchise Meet The Parents which co-starred Robert DeNiro. Well the guy behind the million dollar franchise is another Greg. The Chicago comedian Greg Glienna created the Parents franchise.
Brian Elles (who is working with Glienna on a new project, asked Glienna to tell us about how the Parents movie that spawned a franchise came together. After some small talk about last names and country origins it turns out that a short sketch and Emo Phillips had a hand in helping launch the franchise.
Greg, the last name, how do you pronounce Gilenna.
Mine is Elles. Pronounced Ellis. E-L-L-E-S yet I get L’s all the time.
Well you know what is funny is that it suppose to be. G-L-I-O-N-N-A. But on Ellis Island the made a mistake on the thing so the O became an E and now it’s Glienna.
Mine was Ellesch yet they dropped the CH to become more Americanized.
They failed. (laughs)
(laughs) What is Americanized is the TV pilot I was able to assist you help produce.
Ya. You were a lot of help.
There are a lot of exciting things happening, thank you for letting be a part of the shoot. Did you start the project here or in LA?
No. We shot some test songs scenes in LA but it this is just a little music thing we are trying.
You were sounding very good.
Thank you. It’s not my bread and butter but I have a real musical family and have been playing for a while. My brother plays piano. My mother is a singer.
I’m sure if you don’t want to discuss too much about this TV pilot yet some of the next stages of your project will consist of editing and marketing.
Yea, cutting it down. Seeing if it fits together. I have some film things that are taking up more of my time.
Anything you are willing to share?
I have a script that I might be directing for ABC Family, we are waiting for Jennifer Love Hewitt and if she wants to do it, it will be on ABC Family.
That’s excellent. Script writing is clearly your passion.
Yea, that’s where I actually make money.
Yeah, Meet the Parents that was your first big one.
I heard a lot about how the timeline of the script took place. It starting in Chicago and…
We made it as a low budget independent film. It played in the Music Box in town. A couple art houses around the country. Did very well in London, got great reviews and was actually seen by Steven Stromberg, the Director who said this should be a big studio release. Our version is very low budget. Shot 16mm. And it was dark too, everyone dies. But he said it should be a big Hollywood movie. He was right. He took it to Universal. Years went by. He was going to direct it, but it was came out with Jay Roach.
How long did it take for you to write Meet the Parents?
(laughs) One month.
Yeah it was the quickest thing because I went to my friend and comedian Emo Phillips who put up the money for it. I told him I had this idea. I did this short called “The Vase.” It was two minutes long and it just had me knocking over girlfriend’s family vase. I told him I had that idea for making a feature. He said “write it and if I like it I will put money up for it.” So I threw it together in a couple months. He ended putting money into it and that’s how it got made.
How many pages was the final script?
Wow all that came from a sketch!?
Yeah, it just came out a funny scene. A two minute sketch I put together.
And you had a lot of creative control still attached to your original script?
Oh yeah. With us shooting it on a lower $30,000 original budget, we had no rewrites, we had no notes.
Wow. You have a lot of Chicago comedy roots. Do you visit
Yeah, stand-up is what brought me out here this week as well. I played the Laugh Factory last night.
Beautiful. I’m glad it is finally open in Chicago and hope to catch you again. Well I’m a big fan and thank you for sharing your journey.
Thanks. My pleasure.