“Struck By Lightning,” directed by Brian Dannelly, was one of many films screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The indie dark-comedy had its world premiere during the evening of April 21 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College Tribeca Performing Arts Center.
Ambitious, outspoken high school senior Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer of “Glee”) is struck and ultimately killed by lightning right at the beginning of the film. Throughout the course of the film, Carson narrates a series of flashbacks of how he perseveres to get into his top-choice university and away from his small-minded town by blackmailing his senior class into contributing to a literary magazine he’s publishing.
Dannelly, mostly known for his 2004 film “Saved!,” was very surprised when he first read the screenplay. His agent brought the screenplay — also written by Colfer — to Dannelly’s attention. He admitted to having his doubts due to Colfer’s young age but in the end, he wound up loving the script and decided to pursue it.
“I really love the material and when I met [Colfer], I thought he was amazing. I thought I could bring something to the film,” he explained to The Pioneer. “I like films about underdogs. I like the character that he had written; someone who is strong and trying to figure out his place in the world.”
While the storyline is completely fiction, there are parts of it that are in reference to Colfer’s experience from when he was in high school. Dannelly went on to explain how making a movie containing personal aspects to it is part of an ever-changing process.
“I think when you’re telling a story with film and scripts, it’s always evolving,” he said. “There’s the script, there’s what happens when the actors come on board, there’s what happens when you film it, there’s what happens when you put it together; it’s sort of always evolving.”
Despite this, Dannelly reassures that the final product is very true to the script.
For a low budget indie film, the cast contains a wide variety of well-known actors. Aside from Colfer, there is also Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men,” Allison Janney of “The Help,” Sarah Hyland of “Modern Family” and Rebel Wilson of “Bridesmaids,” just to name a few.
“It was really fun. I love directing, I love being on set,” said Dannelly when reflecting on the experience. With every film, there’s always a possibility of it falling apart. That never happened. There were no problems with the film,” he added.
He also mentioned how he got to work with a lot of people he has close connections with, such as cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, costume designer Wendy Chuck and composer Jake Monaco.
Despite there being no issues as far as whether or not the film could be pulled off, Dannelly explained how there were a few other challenges that they encountered along the way.The cast and crew had a little over two weeks to make the film due to the small budget and short hiatus Colfer had from filming “Glee.” Some of the locations where they were scheduled to film were canceled and Dannelly turned to using classrooms as settings for a pharmacy and a funeral parlor.
For Dannelly, the biggest challenge of all was finding the right person to portray the character of Malerie, Carson’s best friend.
“[Malerie] is kind of this odd girl who kind of is in her own world all the time,” he explained. “It depends on how the actor can play it. She can play it like she has mental problems or someone who is just completely comfortable and confident in who she is, regardless of what other people think of her.”
Wilson was cast in the role the night before shooting began and wound up using the latter of the two options in portraying her.“Struck By Lightning” was screened a total of four times during the Tribeca Film Festival, the final having taken place this past Sunday on the last day of the festival. According to The Wrap website, the film received a standing ovation on opening night.
Watch the trailer one more time:While a distributor for the film has yet to be announced, Dannelly said to expect its release in theaters all over the country by late 2012.