Former Sun Devil Co-Pens, Co-Produces First Movie for the Big Screen
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 13:09
Gilbert native and former Arizona State University student Elliot Feld wanted to make music when he was growing up. During his time at ASU, however, he found another calling. After discovering a love and talent for writing screenplays, Feld went to California where he graduated from the Brooks Institute with a degree in feature filmmaking. He recently co-wrote and produced “General Education,” a full-length feature film starring Janeane Garofalo and Larry Miller. The film hits the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe on August 31. Recently, Feld shared some of his experiences with College Times.
College Times: What was the inspiration behind “General Education?”
Elliot Feld: […] When we were developing the film, we wanted to make something that people could relate to and that we could relate to. Since we were so young our experience was sort of limited, so we knew that high school or college was probably where we wanted to go with the project. There was this movie we all used to love, it was called “Summer School,” and it was made in the late ‘80s, I believe. It was basically about a summer school teacher who is goofing off the whole time in class, and about halfway through the movie the principal tells the teacher that if he doesn’t stop goofing off that he’s going to get fired and all of the kids are going to fail. […] So, we decided it would be fun to make that movie from the students’ point of view. Obviously, “General Education” evolved into something completely different, but we stuck with the “Summer School” vibe.
Let’s talk about the process of making the film. Take us through from, “Okay, we have this thing written” to Janeane Garofalo and Larry Miller signing on.
We knew we wanted the movie to be in theaters and [there’re] certain things that come along with that. Mainly, if it’s going to be in theaters, we needed people to go see it. If people don’t know who is in the movie, it’s hard for them to buy a $10 ticket. So, the first thing we did was form Pelican House Productions as an LLC and we needed to form the movie as its own LLC, so if we had to, it could be sold. That wasn’t ultimately what we wanted to do and it isn’t what we did. We always wanted Pelican House to be our own thing. […] Then we financed. And, without telling the really long story of financing, we did it through friends and family, to be really basic. Along the way, we met some people who became interested who weren’t initially within our network. […] We knew that the script had to be in a really good place because we actually financed the movie before the screenplay was finished, which almost never happens. […] Once we finished the screenplay, we went into casting. We hired our casting directors Amber Horn and Danielle Aufiero and they were working with a lot of TV shows and some of the people that were doing “Skins” at the time and a bunch of shows going on the Disney Channel. And, we were looking for 16 to 24 year olds in the film, so we had this huge library of talent to pull from. Once we got [the] younger cast together, getting Larry Miller and Janeane Garofalo was script-based. This was an independent film; we weren’t running around with a lot of money. We needed them to like the script and the words on the page. And they did, which was a huge step in getting the project done.
I noticed the film will be showing in select theatres and is available on iTunes. How has the internet changed how independent films are produced and distributed?
It’s amazing what the internet has done for the film industry. It used to be, if you want people to know about your movie, you’d have to spend a large portion of the budget to put it on billboards and in newspapers and magazines to get it out there. It’s shocking now in the internet age how much you can do for free. […] Like, “Paranormal Activity” couldn’t have been done 25 to 30 years ago. They could do it, but not like today. A $12,000 movie couldn’t have gone on and made $200,000,000. The internet has allowed that to happen.
Can you tell me some more about Pelican House Productions?
I met [director] Tom Morris and [co-producer] Kevin Liang right away when I attended Brooks. We formed a bond and were really excited to make short films together. A couple of months later we met [co-producer] Jaz [Kalkat] and immediately moved into a house on Pelican Avenue. We would make short films every weekend, just for fun. We’d make really silly stuff and when we’d show our short films in the screening room at school, slowly but surely we became known as the “Pelican House crew.”