Sunday 20 October 2019
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Almost Adults director Sarah Rotella on Growing Up on Film | Interview by Anne Brodie


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So what do filmmakers do when they gain 97M viewers on YouTube with their short films? They make a long film and make it really personal. Almost Adults is the result, an appealing millennial romantic comedy drama about two lifelong friends and roommates suddenly at the end of their tethers. Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) has decided to come out as a lesbian as Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) ends a long-term relationship with her boyfriend that she can’t quite shake. Becoming an adult is tough but being true to oneself is really tough. They navigate unexpected ups and downs of their new worlds, their personal integrity and wellbeing with humour, passion, some trepidation and ultimately, joy. It’s a relatable story that speaks to finding and becoming our authentic selves even if it doesn’t sit well with others. YouTube phenoms, writer Adrianna DiLonardo and director Sarah Rotella whose site UnsolicitedProject is a massive hit, began a passion project, one that reflected their current state of affairs. Thus was created Almost Adults, built not only via the friendship of writer and director DiLonardo and Rotella, but as it turns out, the lifelong friendships of their stars. We spoke with Rotella about Almost Adults.

An obvious question – why did you call it Almost Adults?

The movie is really about these two people who are growing up and growing apart in final year of college transitional point – life changes so much when you finish school – “Almost Adults” speaks to Cassie and Mackenzie at that point where they’re probably not considered young at all. Cassie’s dealing with her career, Mackenzie comes out and starts dating girls for the first time. They’re dealing with more grown up situations. They have a little more growing up to do.

What I liked is that the characters’ struggles are universal, not limited to a specific experience.

We tweaked it to be universal. We don’t shy away from the movie being LGTB, Mackenzie’s cooing out, but the main plot point two best friends going through a breakup. It’s relatable no matter what your sexuality is. It will reach more people. Each character is going through similar things in a sense, at different times, parallel times in the movie. They need each other but the other doesn’t show up. They’re preoccupied.

It was fun showing at film festivals because there is a strong millennial audience. During a programme, they said raise your hand if this is your first time at a film festival and 90% of the audience did. It’s aimed at an audience of 18 – 24, especially LGBTs that really want to see their stories.

You and Adrianna are friends, stars Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) and Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) are friends. How did that shape the project?

For Adrianna and I, we met in high school and we made short films so we have such a great working relationship. We are 100% honest with each other. Once we had the script ready we attached our producers and I went to college with Rebecca so it was easy to communicate what our goals were. Early only on that helped.

Elise and Natasha worked before on YouTube videos we met and knew them. They took part in the normal casting process. It was during the call backs for chemistry for Cassie and Mackenzie that we realised they were good. They had a working relationship and were friends and you could really see it. If one flubbed the other knew how the other would do it and picked it up and kept going. They were telling the story of two characters who has been friends since they were little, as they had been.

You made the film for $120,000 raised on Kickstarter?

We decided to use Kickstarter, we’ve never done crowd funding and we weren’t sure what to expect. We thought we could go as high as $30k as a bare minimum and then we aimed at $40k to do production and then go out for founding for post-production afterwards. But we hit 50% of our goal in 24 hours and 100% in a couple of days.

The film was shot in Toronto and feels like a love letter to the city.

We definitely wanted to shoot it here and the University of Toronto has beautiful locations. We wanted to be all exteriors instead of locking ourselves in a room to showcase the city more. It’s not in-your-face Toronto. There aren’t any CN Tower shots but it feels Toronto-esque, what the experience of living here would be.

You’re releasing the film on 24 platforms but you turned down a theatrical release. Why?

Our audience is worldwide so for that reason, these platforms made more sense and because our audience is millennial, they’re always on their phones and tablets. It’s also On Demand on Rogers, a couple of sable companies, Direct TV, Dish TV, Shaw, and Time-Warner.

Do you have a new project on the go?

Yes we do. We’re in post-production. We haven’t announced it yet but we shot a film in October. It’s a dark comedy about five friends who are all aspiring actors; they go to a cottage for a weekend and while they’re there one of them has a life changing experience, it’s blockbuster role. It’s scary.


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