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‘The Big Short’ Director Adam McKay Credits His Improv Roots for His Film’s Success

Comedy director Adam McKay speaks to Film Comment about how his feature film work from Step Brothers to the Oscar-nominated The Big Short stems from his days as the co-founder of improv comedy troupe the Upright Citizens Brigade.

“The thing that really helped me initially, especially when I went toSaturday Night Live, was, by the time I got there, I had improvised, written, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sketches,” he says. “And we had starting doing a form called ‘The Movie’—basically, we would just improvise a movie. So out of that we started getting the structure of scripts and how to tell stories, different kinds of stories. All of that work really pointed in one direction, which was being very comfortable with ensemble work. It became the place I felt most at home. So in the case of The Big Short, it’s a very ensemble-driven movie, and there’s a lot of juggling of different stories and ideas. And I would give a lot of credit to that training as far as making me feel comfortable with it.”