The late night indie comedy about a group of struggling twenty-somethings trying to find themselves while working in a restaurant has maintained its fan base more than five years after its theatrical debut. Waiting… is the inspiration of writer/director Rob McKittrick, who went from waiting tables to becoming a filmmaker literally with the screenplay that described it all. Now, half a decade after his film has become a cult favorite, he’s penning the series of the same name for Comedy Central. Destined to never have to put on an apron again, McKittrick sat down with Script to talk about the new show and his success in Hollywood along the way.
SCRIPT: What gave you the idea for the movie Waiting…?
ROB MCKITTRICK: I was working at Roadhouse Grill, a chain restaurant in Orlando, Florida. I had just moved there from Bradenton, a small town outside of Sarasota, where I worked at a Steak and Ale. I started noticing that everyone at my new job was having the same experience as everyone at my old job. The same type of servers, bitching about the same types of customers, friction between cooks and wait-staff, the underage hostess that everyone wants to sleep with and one asshole manager. I realized it’s a universal experience.
SCRIPT: What happened after you wrote the script?
ROB MCKITTRICK: I wrote it to make it myself. I was thinking I’d borrow money from my friends’ parents. My friend who got a co-producer credit, Dean, and I were giving the script out to any and everyone. Then, we had a meeting on the Universal lot in Orlando with a producer. It was a horrible meeting. This was just the start. On the way out, Dean started flirting with the receptionist. She went to high school with a friend of ours. He worked for a creative exec. in Hollywood. His next-door neighbor worked for an assistant to Chris Fenton at William Morris. We got the script to Chris and he said, “Hey, I love this. I’d like to represent you. I think I can sell this.” As I did drafts for the studio, it got broader and bigger.
SCRIPT: How did it go from indie movie to TV show?
ROB MCKITTRICK: I directed the feature. It was a long crazy story. We shot it in 2004. It came out in October 2005. It didn’t set any charts on fire, but in subsequent years, it’s sold several million copies on video. A year and a half ago, Lionsgate started coming to us and asking if we could do it as a television show. I thought about it for a little bit. It seemed like a fun idea. I came up with the pitch and pitched it to Lionsgate and Comedy Central. They bought the script for the pilot.
SCRIPT: Did you alter the characters or storyline from the movie to the TV show?
ROB MCKITTRICK: For the most part, it’s the same. The characters from the movie transfer over. Dean, played by Justin Long, had been at community college for years and had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. I was afraid I was going to get trapped in the restaurant industry. But Dean sort of has his shit together a little bit more. In the pilot episode, he has graduated college and he has a business degree. He gets an opportunity with a real career possibility, so he’s quitting his job. But, he loses the job before it ever started. I liked that as a bit of a change. It’s another thing to think, wow I might be getting stuck here. But if you think you’re leaving and you get stuck, that’s worse.
SCRIPT: Describe your writing process.
ROB MCKITTRICK: It depends on what I’m doing. If I have a gig, like when I was writing the pilot for the TV show, I tend to work in extremes. I’m easily distracted. Other writers write to relieve stress. Yeah, that doesn’t fucking work for me. Writing causes stress. It’s blood from a stone. To compensate for that, I have to spend a really long time doing it. If I’m in front of my computer for 12 hours, that’s only two hours of writing. I can’t write in a coffee shop. I can’t even write with music on. I’m so easily distracted. I drink too much diet soda. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, and I don’t smoke.
SCRIPT: What’s your advice to aspiring screenwriters?
ROB MCKITTRICK: Number 1: Move out to Los Angeles. Number 2: Write a really good script. Those are the two things. Most agencies aren’t going to take unsolicited material. So, if you move out to Los Angeles, you’re gonna make friends. Some of those people you know in the industry are looking for their big break. I got really lucky with my degrees of separation. But I honestly believe that if I had moved to L.A., it would have happened here. Once again, there are so many assistants and newly promoted creative execs who are looking to graduate. You can’t just randomly mail something off to someone. They aren’t going to read it. It’s a thousand to one shot. If you move out to L.A., give yourself a year or two. You’re gonna meet people. Once you get rid of that necessity, write a really good script. So much of the scripts you read are just bad. A good script rises to the top.