In 1976, a 12-year old girl sets out to uncover the secrets of sex ed and it doesn't go well.
Interview with Writer/Director L. Elizabeth Powers
Congratulations! Why did you make your film? Thank you!
That's an interesting question and I wish I had something really deep and meaningful to say here. But the truth is, it's not like I had an important message that needed to be heard. Really, I just thought it would be funny. It was also an opportunity for me to create a stylized piece, a period piece and really be involved in art direction and design and that was something I had been jonesing to do for a while.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Well, considering the state of things in the world, I think we could all use a laugh right now! But, really, anyone who was ever a kid trying to figure out the birds and the bees will be able to relate on some level. It's sort of fun, as an adult, to look back on how awkward you were at a certain age and finally be able to laugh.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
In the story, Adeline is 12 years old and going on this very personal, internalized journey of discovery. But, ultimately, it's really a universal journey many, many of us have been on.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
When I first wrote this I was finishing up my MFA in screenwriting and I just wanted to write something outside of school, something for fun that I wasn't going to be graded on. I showed it to someone I had worked with before and she just sort of blew if off so I thought maybe it wasn't really very good, So, I sat on it a while.
Then I decided to send it to some screenplay competitions and get some feedback. I tightened it up a little after getting the first reader feedback and started sending it out again. Much to my surprise the script started placing and then winning. For about a year or so there, it evolved very little.
During this time, I had more or less moved back home temporarily to help my ailing parents. My dad passed away and my mom was going through several surgeries. It was a weird time, but the point is: I was far from having extra cash lying around to shoot a short film, much less a period piece that would require costumes and props and a large cast.
So, I was poking around on the Louisiana Film Prize Facebook page one day and saw an announcement where they were partnering with Hollyshorts Film Festival to do a short screenplay competition, with the winner getting production funding. I figured it was worth a shot. Sometime around 1 AM during Hollyshorts 2015 awards ceremony (I was two time zones ahead back in Austin), I get a text from a friend who was attending the festival saying, "You won!" I definitely didn't get back to sleep that night.
So, then, pre-production was really the next big evolution for this project. Part of the requirements of the award was that we were to shoot the film in Shreveport as part of the 2016 Louisiana Film Prize. So, that put us in Shreveport, Louisiana, using local talent and resources and inevitably that helped define the final feel of the film. For example, originally I had pictured Adeline's dad, Randy, as sort of a small nerdy guy, like maybe an accountant type, but the actor that we really liked a lot was a big guy and didn't feel "nerdy." And then the vintage "car" we found to use was a 1972 pickup truck, so at that point I ended up re-envisioning Randy as a blue collar type.
As always, when you get the film cast and have your locations and your team assembled, there are so many interpretations and nuances that evolve that you didn't even realize were in the script. It's fun watching that evolution and then looking back trying to remember what I was picturing when I first wrote the script.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
People have really seemed to love the film. It's succeeded well beyond my expectations. I mean, I've gotten feedback from festival critics as well where they break the film down and tell me everything that is wrong with it. But, as far as I'm concerned, for a comedy the true "feedback" comes during the screening. Either people are laughing or they are not. And being able to sit in a crowded theater and hear people laughing and "hooting" really tells me that it's striking the right chords with a lot of people. I've also had so many people come up to me after screenings and tell me how they related to the film and tell me their own coming of age stories.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It's surprising just in the variety of ways different people relate. I expect other people who grew up in small southern American towns to relate. And a lot of people who grew up in the 70s are fond of the 1970s retro aspect of the film. But I've had people with really different backgrounds come up and tell me a story about themselves and I've realized that they were able to see themselves in these characters in ways I had never expected. One lady told me how she had been a nun and related to the story. Even though she had been much older when she experienced this and it was totally different circumstances, she was still able to relate to the basic coming of age awkwardness regardless of the details. I think that is really cool. It's heartwarming to feel like we are all connected by these basic human experiences.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I am hoping the success of this short will lead to other successes, certainly. I have a couple of feature scripts I am shopping around. Who I Am Now has also won some awards and placed in competitions. And I am really excited about a script I am finalizing that is basically a follow up to this short. Set in 1984, it's more of a dramedy that pure comedy but it also follows a 12 year old girl's journey awkwardly coming of age one fateful summer in a small town in Texas. One thing I realized after making this film is there aren't that many stories about girls at this age. Not told from the girl's perspective by someone who actually experienced it. With The Importance of Sex Education getting such a great response, it has really inspired me to try to get the feature made.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
The festival run for The Importance of Sex Education is going to be winding down. probably in early 2018. I would love to find distribution for it. So many people want to know when they can see it again and will it be online and I hope to find the right forum to offer that. Beyond that, I would love to make connections that would help me get the feature made.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
While I didn't start out to prove anything about female filmmakers, at some point along the way, I realized it was important to me to make sure the female perspective was retained on this project. When starting to look for crew and co-producers, etc, I quickly found out that I would have to be selective who I worked with or I would lose that. I made it a point not to work with any guy (or gal for that matter) who started out by talking down to me, or explaining to me how I should make the film instead of asking me what I was wanting to do with it.
As such, I ended up with female producers, art supervisor and assistant directors, as well as a nearly equal male/female crew and cast ratio. I honestly don't think I realized how important that was going to be for me until I started talking to people and realized hard it is for women to maintain their own voice sometimes. All that to say that I hope this film proves that women can make cool films, that we can work together as a solid team, and of course, in case it needs to be pointed out again, that women can be funny! And of course, ultimately, I just hope people laugh and feel some connection.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What was your "ah-ha" moment when you realized "how babies are made?"
Would you like to add anything else?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the film and I hope lots of folks get a chance see it. Currently we are on the schedule at Hollyshorts, DC Shorts in Washington DC, Women Texas Film Festival in Dallas, Norman Film Festival in Oklahoma, The Lake Charles Film Festival in Louisiana and are showing in Fredericksburg, TX at a special screening of indie shorts this Sunday sponsored by the Hill Country Film Festival where we won Best Texas Film.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I've been writing a lot. But, primarily, I am working on the Summer of '84 script that I mentioned earlier and trying to make that a reality. Christine Chen, producer, is currently making the festival circuit with her short film "Ya Albi" and just completed a new short film "Shakespeare on the Range" which stars Garrett Kruithoff and Mary Thoma-- who you may recognize from "The Importance of Sex Education" as Mr. Farity and Principal Gronmeyer-- in very different roles. Frances Watson, who plays young Adeline in our film, just wrapped on two other shorts, Popcorn & Chocolate and Willow that are premiering in the fall.
Interview: August 2017
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The Importance of Sex Education
In 1976, a 12-year old girl sets out to uncover the secrets of sex ed and it doesn't go well.
Length: 15 minutes
Director: L. Elizabeth Powers
Producer: L. Elizabeth Powers, Christine Chen, Ariane Perideaux
Writer: L. Elizabeth Powers
About the writer, director and producer:
L. Elizabeth Powers has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work in visual effects include such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Amazing Spiderman. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she works as a freelanceVFX artist, editor, designer and filmmaker under her production company Orphaned Dingbat Productions. (http://www.lelizabethpowers.com, http://www.orphaneddingbat.com)
Key cast: Frances Watson, Amber Dawn Landrum, James Harlon Palmer, Garrett Kruithof, Dodie Brown, Carol Ann Scruggs, Joel Foxx, Bryce McDaniel, Mary Thoma
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Yes, please. :-)
Social media handles: #importancemovie
Funders: Hollyshorts, Louisiana Film Prize, Orphaned Dingbat Productions
Made in association with: Moth to Flame Productions