There was never a time when Paul Briganti wanted to be anything other than a director. "I was one of those kids with a video camera who made their friends be in things until they stopped hanging out with me," he says. "I was a lonely kid. I had no choice but to think of fun, cool-looking stuff in my head. Now, I'm way less lonely, but luckily that other stuff didn't go away."
Until 2022, Briganti served as a longtime director at Saturday Night Live, where he shot viral segments featuring the likes of Natalie Portman, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Swift. "Any job at Saturday Night Live is the hardest-highest stakes version of that job," he reflects. "Everyone there has to deliver their best work at lightning speed while on zero sleep. And if you mess up, your coworkers see it at the same exact time and — along with the rest of the world — go 'WHAT WAS THAT?!' The tiniest error could upend everything."
"Saturday Night Live taught me to fear nothing professionally," says the director. "It's like coming home from war and never being afraid of a fist fight ever again."
It was during his time at SNL that Briganti first worked with Please Don't Destroy — that is, the comedy trio of Ben Marshall, Martin Herlihy and John Higgins. After directing a number of the troupe's absurdist digital shorts, the gang is making their feature debut with Please Don't Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, about childhood friends on an adventure to find priceless treasure.
Below, Briganti shares with A.frame the five movies — all comedies, though very different types of comedy — that informed his filmmaking sensibilities and helped inspire The Treasure of Foggy Mountain.
Directed by: Peter Yates | Written by: Steve Tesich
I saw this a long time ago, and Ben from Please Don't Destroy reminded me of it when we were working on our movie. There's a lot in common with ours: Wistless dudes post college wilting away in their hometown, some want more and others couldn't be happier where they are. While it's a privilege to be anxious about one's impending adulthood, there's something universal about not wanting to give up the pointlessness of youth. Also, it's beautiful. Everything is direct sun on sweaty, gaunt, early-20s faces, which you never see because it's considered wrong. But it works so well here.
Directed by: Dennis Dugan | Written by: Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler
One of the best comedy movies ever. I saw it with my mom and her girlfriends when I was 10 years old. It was such a joy, being a young boy in a theater with a bunch of ladies, laughing our asses off. I love so much about this movie, but I especially love how specific and bizarre the emotional stakes are: If Happy doesn't win the championship, his adorable grandmother must spend the rest of her years in a retirement home, where she will be mentally and physically tortured by a psychotic warden (Ben Stiller).
There's always so much debate when you're making a comedy about the need — or lack of need — for emotional stakes, and this is what I always come back to. You can have Sandler screaming at a golf ball to go in its hole, and it'll always be hilarious. But a guy who is doing that to save his grandma from an eternity of psychological hell makes you care, and the comedy shines brighter because of it.
Written and Directed by: Paul Mazursky
Abbi Jacobson told me about this movie. I first saw it maybe 10 years ago and watch it every year. It's everything I love: New York in the '70s, heartbreak, romance, comedy, Alan Bates as an emotionally volatile artist who throws coffee mugs at walls. It's a dreamy, messy comedy that got kind of swallowed up in Woody Allen's romantic comedy era. Everyone should see it.
It's a movie that's very ahead of its time. It's meandering and about self-discovery, and about how messy and painful it is to start over in life but how rewarding it is. It's about the joys of getting the rug pulled out from under you. Also, it's beautiful, and New York in the fall? I don't know. It's amazing.
Directed by: Jay Roach | Written by: Mike Myers and Michael McCullers
I must have seen this five times the summer it came out. This was peak "going to the movies because it’s summer" early 2000s. So many hilarious moments. Goldmember was such a weird character. He loved gold and ate his own skin?! But it was so funny. And Michael Caine brought a level of class and respect to it. Beyoncé crushed it, obviously. And besides the almost hilariously, blatantly offensive depiction of little people, Verne Troyer was a brilliant comedic performer. They go deeper into his character, exploring how dehumanizing it is to be Mini Me.
After making our movie, I have such a renewed respect for movies like this, that can be so relentlessly and consistently funny while telling a satisfying story. Such a great time. Mike Meyers and Jay Roach should do something together again.
Written and Directed: Maren Ade
I'm a new parent, and I'm always thinking about the ways in which I will one day embarrass my daughter — how I'll be reaching out to her in weird silly ways, how she'll refute it but actually be comforted by it. This movie is a perfect slow burn between an estranged father and his daughter, two people who have been led astray by each other's absence, and who desperately collide together in a hilarious tragic fashion. It's so long, but it never feels pointlessly so. You live in the moment, and it sweats you out, and you just have no choice but to be inside of it for so long, and ultimately be sad when it's over.
I first watched this with my friend Jane on their laptop on a writing trip. I don't think people romance watching a movie on a laptop enough. I love theaters as much as the next director, but there's something so quaint and sweet about watching an incredible movie on a laptop resting on your knees, shaking every time you laugh.