Avignon New York Film Festival - "How to Be Popular" - Nov. 17, 2007
On Saturday night, contributing notetaker Liz Nord invited me to a screening of John Dilley's short film "How to Be Popular" at the Avignon/New York Film Festival, which was held at Hunter College. Liz is a former colleague of John's at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco. FYI, in 2001, a short film I worked on as a production assistant called "Here" starring Lee Majors, also played at the Avignon/New York Film Festival, where it won the Le Roger prize for best short (USA). I wish John the best of luck in hopes he may also receive that prize.
"How to Be Popular" is narrative comedy short inspired by an article written in The New York Times about how popularity affects middle school students. The film has the look and feel of a documentary, but is actually a comedic re-enactment. The student characters are interviewed and asked a bunch of questions about popularity. They're even asked to rate who's the first, second, third, and so on most popular, as if there's even a scientific way to calculate that, but it's very funny and poignant.
After the screening, John was asked to say a few words and take some questions from the audience. He said the article that the film was based on captivated him. He contacted the writer to ask permission to make the film. He really wanted to see this as a movie, because he went through similar issues as a kid, and it seemed really relevant now as an adult. When asked how he found all the kids in his film, he said he had a committed casting director who looked at almost 100 kids. Also the school and the kids in the film are not the actual school and kids in the article. Someone commented on how astounding the make up was that the girls wore in the film, and John replied that it wasn't too far off from real life, and that some of the girls in the film did their own make up. In all, the film took seven days to shoot. The final question of the night was what will John be doing next. He said he has plans to shoot another short sometime within the next few months. He also has a feature brewing.