Ever cross paths with someone who’s clearly too young for you and catch yourself thinking, ‘Way back when, he/she would have been perfect!’ That’s exactly what happened to writer-director-producer Hannah Fidell and she channeled that thought into a feature film.
“A Teacher” features Lindsay Burdge as Diana, a young high school teacher. She’s got a solid routine, enjoys and takes pride in her work, but there’s just one quirk – she’s having an affair with one of her students (Will Brittain). The situation seems manageable at first, but when it progresses beyond glances in the hall and secretive late night romances, the relationship threatens to unravel Diana’s entire existence.
With the film heading towards a September 6th limited release, Fidell took the time to sit down and run through the entire process of bringing “A Teacher” to life. After a cute high school boy donning a letterman jacket sparked the idea, it came down to joining forces with cinematographer Andrew Palermo and just picking a date. Fidell recalled:
“He asked me, ‘So when are we making this movie?’ And I was like, ‘Well, we’re gonna make it this winter!’ And then we did! … I just needed someone to just have faith, I guess, that it was going to happen.”
And when it finally came time to make “A Teacher” happen, Fidell knew precisely who she wanted to make it happen with – Lindsay Burdge. In fact, Fidell wrote the part for her. However, when it came to casting her love interest, Eric Tull, Fidell opted to hold a standard audition and that’s where she found Will Brittain. She explained:
“Will came to an audition that I had in Austin. He was a student at University of Texas and first he read with me. He didn’t know that I was the director. He thought that I was just the casting director [laughs] … But he showed up smelling like a teenage boy. Not a gross having just played a game of basketball teenage boy, but smelled like Acqua di Gio … And so that kind of sealed the deal for [myself and Lindsay]. We’re like, okay, it’s a full sensory experience.”
It’s also important to know that Fidell didn’t hit it big right from the start. In fact, she had a particularly rough run with her first directorial effort, “We’re Glad You’re Here.”
“[Lindsay] starred in a film I made about four years ago now that was, in terms of what makes a film successful, not successful. In the marketplace, it was a complete failure … At the time, it was heartbreaking. Now I look at it as the best thing that could ever happen to me because I learned how to make films, I think. I mean, I’m still learning.”
As important as it is to always continue to grow as a filmmaker, Fidell undoubtedly grew enough since then to make “A Teacher” a hauntingly poignant piece. Check out our full chat with the SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director prizewinner in the video below and catch “A Teacher” for yourself on VOD and iTunes right now or in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on September 6th.