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Behind the Scenes of "Sleepover" with Director Joe Nussbaum

The Advantages of Working on a Teen Comedy

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Joe Nussbaum makes his feature film directorial debut with the teen comedy, "Sleepover." "Sleepover" follows Julie (Alexa Vega) as she hosts a slumber party with her best friends, Hannah, Yancy, and Farrah. In an attempt to overcome their unpopular status, Julie and her buddies enter into an all-night scavenger hunt against the popular girls. As the two groups compete, they have the adventures of their young lives.

Why does this film suit your sensibilities?
I think this film was great for my sensibilities. When I first read the script I immediately loved it because, for me, it was a total throwback to the movies that I loved when I was a kid: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” all the sort of John Hughes movies. This is sort of like “Ferris Bueller’s Night Out” in a way, except for with 14 year-old girls. I love it. They go from place to place and have lots of adventures. There’s lots of room for comedy and at the same time, there’s just enough drama with the girls – not learning lessons, but growing and changing in interesting ways.

Have you had to learn a lot of patience working with teenage girls?
Not really. I sort of feel like because they’re used to being kids and doing what adults say, whether it’s in school or from their parents or whatever, I think it’s actually easier in some ways.

How is your style different working with teenagers versus adults?
I think it’s the same. That was my decision from the beginning, to treat them exactly like I would treat adults. Not talk down to them and not play little games with them, but just say what I wanted and say what I needed from the scene, what I needed from them. Then they would feel like adults and feel like they were just working on the movie, just like everybody else, and that they had a job to do and they would do it. That’s played out pretty well. But like I was saying, I think it’s actually better because they’re so used to, “Be quiet, stand over here…” They do it because that’s what they do from their parents and from their teachers. Whereas an adult isn’t going to take that all the time. Whether it’s me or the people who run the set in the more managerial way, the girls basically do what’s asked of them. They’re such good kids anyway, they’re not divas.

You seem to get along well with them.
We laugh together a lot. What was really nice was that we had two weeks together of rehearsal, which is rare for a movie this size. It really, really helped me bond with the girls. There were no other people, no one was waiting, the camera wasn’t set up, [and] there weren’t 100 people standing around. It was just me and the girls in a quiet room, and we were really able to get to know each other and work on the characters.

How difficult is it to shoot in a mall while the stores are open?
Right now we are shooting at Old Navy at the Del Amo Mall. It’s pretty much like shooting anywhere else. As far as I’m concerned, I’m so focused on the kids and the camera and what’s going on, there could be a hundred people shopping in the store and I wouldn’t even notice. Sometimes I look over and see the people actually shopping and I’m surprised.

What would you say makes these girls stars?
I think it’s their watchability. You just take one look at them and you want to see what they do next. I think that they all have that sort of magnetic, energetic, bright personality. When they smile, you smile, and you’re happy to see what they’re doing. When they get into something, you just want to see how it turns out. You root for them. I think that’s what does it.

What opens this movie up to audiences beyond just teen girls?
I think that, hopefully, one of the things that’ll open it up to a broader audience is just it being a good movie. I know that my friends and I go to see high school movies, and I’m 30. I’m not in high school anymore, but I was in high school. You know what I mean? I won’t necessarily immediately run out and go see a high school movie but if I hear from a couple of places that it’s good, I will, because I can relate to it. Everyone has been in junior high; everyone has had a sleepover. Most people snuck out of the house. I don’t know that a broader audience would run out and see it the way girls might, but if they hear it’s good, they will. There will be something to relate to. Parents will get a real kick out of this movie. I hope. The adult actors are really talented and funny. Adults will enjoy seeing them.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Alexa Vega and Mika Boorem Interviews
"Sleepover" Movie News

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