Genre: Drama
Premise: A pregnant pizza delivery girl becomes infatuated with a customer, a mother desperately trying to raise a son on her own.
About: This script finished top 5 on last year’s Black List. The writer is very new and green. She has one produced credit, writing an episode of Law and Order: Organized Crime.
Writer: Jean Kyoung Frazier
Details: 101 pages

Nayah Damasen for Pizza Girl?

I’ve been seeing some gabbing in the comment section about nepotism. I know that Franklin Leonard, the creator of the Black List, is a rampant hater of all things nepotistic. So his list is, basically, a compilation of anti-nepotistic entries. I think the scary question to ask – and one a lot of people are afraid of – is, “What does this anti-nepotism get us?” Cause, for the last few years, it doesn’t look like it’s gotten us a whole lot. Let’s hope Pizza Girl changes that.

Pizza Girl is half-Korean, 18, and pregnant. She works at a pizza joint called Eddie’s with her best friend, Darryl, a young black man who seems to be in constant drama with his many boyfriends.

Pizza Girl has a boring life. She doesn’t like her mom or her (Pizza Girl’s) boyfriend, Billy, because they’re disproportionately in love with the baby she’s about to bring into the world. Billy wants nothing more than to be a father which is exactly why Pizza Girl is disgusted by him.

I’ll tell you who Pizza Girl does like though. A random woman who calls in and asks Pizza Girl to go buy pickles and add them to her pepperoni pizza. She has never met this woman yet loves her more than the man who impregnated her.

She delivers the pickle pizza to Jenny, a 38 year old woman who lives in a nice neighborhood in town. Her and her 8 year old son have recently moved back to CA and her son hasn’t been eating. Pickle pizza is the last hope to get him to nourish himself. Which is where the unique order comes from.

Thus begins a plot-averse character journey where Pizza Girl becomes more and more obsessed with Jenny, to the point where when she’s having sex with Billy, she imagines Jenny in order to orgasm.

We’re never quite sure why she likes Jenny so much but I think it’s because Jenny is a mother and is doing such a good job loving her child. So maybe that means Pizza Girl, who’s not exactly thrilled to be a future mom, can overcome that issue and be like Jenny. Whether that actually happens or not, however, we’ll have to see.

It actually took me a while to understand what this script was.  I went in expecting a 2023 version of Juno. But this definitely isn’t that. What I liked about Juno was that it had something to say. The movie was about a young girl making a very adult decision and navigating all the complexities of managing that decision.

I was 50 pages into Pizza Girl and I couldn’t figure out what it was about. If you had forced me to come up with a brief summary, I would’ve said something to the effect of, “It’s about a really depressed pregnant girl who likes one of her pizza delivery customers for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.”

That doesn’t exactly have the same punch as Juno.

But somewhere between pages 50-60, I started to realize the script was about depression and the fear of being a mother. Which is a noble topic to take on. However, it’s one of the harder subject matters to explore. Because 99% of moviegoers go to movies to escape their own feelings of aimlessness and depression. They want to forget that for two hours.

At our core, we are a feel-good industry in a feel-bad world.

Which puts Pizza Girl into that specialty market where the prime consumers are critics and cinephiles – the moviegoers who watch everything and are, therefore, bored, by those dopamine distilleries known as Hollywood flicks.

But that market isn’t easy to thrive in. If anything, it’s harder than the mainstream stuff. Because it’s such a tiny slice of the movie business and the people you’re writing to are extremely discerning. These are expert moviegoers and they’ll demand a lot more from you because of it.

So, when you’re writing a script like this, one that treats jokes like lepers, the two things you absolutely must get right are: we have to want to root for the main character. And we have to be captivated by the story’s central relationship.

Unfortunately, the script fails on the first front. Pizza Girl is not likable. She seems to hate her boyfriend and mom, despite them being super loving and supportive. She drinks all the time, despite being pregnant. She becomes infatuated with this other person for reasons that the reader doesn’t understand (she literally falls for the woman off her initial phone call, before she’s even met her??).

As I’ve said many times before, it’s impossible to win over a reader if they don’t like your main character. And that’s where I was with Pizza Girl. Despite her awesome name, she was impossible to get behind.

Now, the relationship with Jenny was a different story. That had me kind of intrigued. Jenny was a bit of an enigma so I was curious what was going on with her. Why was she a single mother? Where was the dad? How did she live in a nice neighborhood when it didn’t look like she had a job? So whenever Pizza Girl would go to her place, I noticed I was a lot more interested in the script.

But a lot of this was offset by the overwhelmingly depressing tone that I could never get past. All of us writers are feelers. We feel deeply, especially when we’re down. But you have to be careful to separate the feeler in you from the storyteller in you. Let the feeler feel. But, in the end, the storyteller has to steer the ship. He has to come up with the most entertaining scenes, the most entertaining plot points, the most entertaining characters. If you leave the feeler in charge, especially if you’re writing a movie about depression, it’s going to be a big fat drag.

Juno says so much more about pregnancy than this script and it’s because Diablo Cody prioritized storytelling over feels. She made her main character likable. She went out of her way to make the dialogue entertaining. Her plot points (like the husband crossing the line with Juno) were all interesting.

And she was still able to get that shot of depression in there through the character of Vanessa, the wife desperate to have a child.

Like a lot of Black List scripts, Pizza Girl has some strong pieces to it. But the overall experience feels uneven and too depressing, in my opinion. I think I understood what the writer was trying to do but was just never able to get past that down feeling the story gave me.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: You can explore depression without making every single beat of your story depressing (Skeleton Twins). Just like you can explore humor without making every single beat of your story funny (Tom Hank’s Punchline). I think it’s dangerous if you explore depression as a subject matter by only showing depression. We feel an emotion the greatest when we can contrast it against the opposite emotion. And I never saw the opposite emotion in Pizza Girl.

What I learned 2: Be careful not to confuse the reader with contradictory elements. In this script we see Pizza Girl constantly ignoring Billy’s calls. Then, when she sleeps with him at night, she kisses him desperately, clinging to him with all she’s got. So does she like Billy or doesn’t she? Jenny lives in a rich neighborhood but in a poor house. Is she well off or isn’t she? Pizza Girl wears her lack of ambition like a badge of honor. She’s also mad that Billy doesn’t have any ambition. Does Pizza Girl value ambition or doesn’t she? I think some writers believe these contrasts make their story more complex. But, more often than not, they just confuse the reader.