True Adolescents

True Adolescents

Mark Duplass stars in TRUE ADOLESCENTS, a film by Craig Johnson. Picture courtesy The Group Entertainment. All rights reserved.

True Adolescents

Executive Producer:
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Production Designer:
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True Adolescents (2009/2011)

Opened: 07/29/2011 Limited

reRun Theater07/29/2011 - 08/04/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Facebook

Genre: Comedy

Rated: Unrated


Meet Sam Bryant (Mark Duplass of The Puffy Chair and Humpday). He's an aging Seattle rocker with no job, no record deal, and no place to stay until he finds some room at his aunt's house in the suburbs. He's also the last guy anyone would pick to take two teens camping for some quality dude time. Written and directed by Craig Johnson, marking his feature directorial debut, True Adolescents is a warm and spirited coming of age story that also stars newcomers Bret Loehr and Carr Thompson, and Academy-Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River).

Production Notes

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Director Craig Johnson wrote the script with intimate knowledge of the terrain traveled by the film's protagonist Sam.

The film was shot entirely on location in Washington State. The crew filmed in the city of Seattle and nearby towns such as Woodinville, North Bend, and Snoqualmie, as well as the exotic, pre-historic forests of the Cascade Mountains. The Olympic Peninsula also played host to several shoreline locations, including the driftwood expanses of Ruby Beach.

Principal photography lasted 4 weeks from August to September 2007. Because the heart of the film takes place outdoors, the shoot was planned to coincide with Washington's brief, gloriously sunny season. The result depicts a Seattle where not a single raindrop falls. Trying to match this climate and landscape in pickup shots scheduled months later proved impossible, as Second Unit shoots were snowed out not once, but twice. The filmmakers literally found themselves waiting for the sun to come out and for grass to grow before they could get critical pickup shots needed to complete the film. Final photography wrapped in spring 2008.

The production shot on an Arri SR II camera using Super 16mm in order to best capture the natural beauty of the exterior locations. Further and more importantly, the "lo-fi" look of Super 16 was designed to reflect the protagonist's own cantankerous retro sensibility: Sam is through-and-through an analog guy.

The edit lasted approximately 21 nonconsecutive weeks, starting in Seattle during production, then moving to Brooklyn, NY for the remainder. Editing shut down for several months until the Seattle weather cleared up enough to shoot the final pieces needed, then it raced to completion in late spring 2008. Almost all remaining phases of finishing occurred in New York: sound design, mix, and picture finish. The sole exception was score composition and recording, which occurred in LA.

Johnson wrote the first draft of the script in August 2006, while he was still enrolled in New York University's graduate film program. John Tintori, Chair of the Graduate Film Department, introduced him to Producer Thomas Woodrow, a recent alum. Woodrow and Johnson decided to greenlight themselves and make the movie. Less than a year later, cameras rolled.

Interview with the Filmmakers: Craig Johnson (Writer/Director) and Thomas Woodrow (Producer)

Mark Duplass's performance as Sam manages to be funny, charismatic, both likeable and unlikeable, and instantly recognizable as "that guy." How did you cast him?

Craig Johnson: I thought casting the role of Sam would be really, really, hard. Then my producer Thom recommended I watch the Duplass Bros. film The Puffy Chair, which stars Mark. Fifteen minutes into it I hit pause and threw up my hands; it was a no-brainer. I immediately called Thom, who, it turns out, had met Mark on a set before, so it wasn't too hard to get in touch. We sent him the script and Mark liked it enough to talk with me about how I was planning on doing it. As you can tell from the films he's directed with his brother Jay, he's incredibly attuned to the foibles of human behavior. We were both really invested in making sure Sam was a fully fleshed-out human being. And you'll see in the movie that he just nailed it. It's really an incredible performance -- funny, obnoxious, and very, very human. We were so lucky he said yes.

And what about Melissa Leo? Had you heard about her performance in Frozen River when you cast her?

Thomas Woodrow: Melissa had come off that project a few months before we contacted her, although we hadn't heard anything about that specific performance at the time. We are so excited that someone as talented and hard-working as Melissa has earned her due in the form of an Academy Award nomination. I'd always loved her work, and Craig was an especially big fan of her role as Benicio del Toro's wife in 21 Grams. When Mark Duplass mentioned her to us for the role of Sharon, Sam's tough but generous aunt, we instantly realized how perfect she'd be and offered her the role right away. And our instincts were right; she was fantastic.

Sharon doesn't go through anything nearly as harrowing as Melissa's Frozen River character, but she does struggle with being the mom to a trouble-making, fifteen-year-old son whose father is absent. More importantly, she can see right through Sam and acts as the moral compass of the movie.

Was there anything different in how you approached directing the teen actors?

CJ: Not really, no. It was all in the casting. We had great casting directors, Meg Morman and Sunny Boling, who brought in fantastic kids. Once I saw that Bret and Carr were completely natural in their auditions, I cast them hoping they would bring that effortless naturalism to set -- which they did. My biggest concern was that they wouldn't have chemistry together and seem like friends, albeit friends who were growing apart. So I made sure that we all got together a week before shooting just to hang out and get to know one other. We went on a hike, ran through some scenes outside, and I got them used to playing off Mark, who was constantly improvising. One thing we did that I might not do with older actors was go through the script scene by scene and really talk about who the characters were, their backstories, and what certain scenes meant.

Though the script was written, I also wanted the actors to use their own words if they felt they could express something better than I had. Mark was a veteran at this, but our young actors got into the game as well. Hence the line: "You're gonna have sex with your sister and then your penis is gonna fall off, and then she's gonna put your penis in a pickle jar for a midnight snack." You think anyone but an actual 14-year old could come up with that? I don't think so.

For Sam to be a thirty-something indie rocker living in a city with such a rich musical history suggests that creating the right soundtrack was crucial. How did you approach it?

CJ: It should go without saying that any self-respecting film about a drifting Seattle rocker needs one thing in particular: an awesome soundtrack. Through Music Supervisor Sandy Wilson of Light In The Attic Records, we had access to some of the best emerging bands from the Seattle rock scene, as well as to pioneering 60's garage rockers like The Sonics. We drew up a soundtrack of up-and-coming bands like The Blakes (who also play Sam's band The Effort in the film), Mono In VCF, and The F***ing Eagles, as well as established acts like Band of Horses, The Black Keys, and Devendra Banhart.

TW: Right. But as the story transitioned from urban Seattle to the rainforests and beaches of the Olympic Peninsula, we felt there should be a palpable shift in the musical vocabulary. It felt wrong to continue the needle-drops once the characters entered the woods; the shift in music needed to reflect the expansion of the story beyond the prosaic. Peter Golub's spare, guitar-driven score really heightens the story of three young men who are lost not only physically, but perhaps emotionally as well. Yet it still feels appropriate within Sam's musical world and tastes.

Your turnaround time from first draft to first frame seemed incredibly fast, especially for an independent film. What was the biggest factor in making the movie a reality?

TW: The critical first step in advancing from script to celluloid was connecting with indie producing legend Gill Holland. I had read an interview that identified him as one of the few indie producers who still developed projects with smaller budgets. So I cold-called him and pitched him over the phone.

CJ: And the rest is Blackberry history.

Cast Biographies

Mark Duplass (Sam)

Mark Duplass first made a name for himself when he starred in, co-wrote, and co-directed a string of award-winning short films, including "This is John" and "Scrapple," which premiered at Sundance in 2003 and 2004, respectively. He and his brother Jay also wrote and directed the 2005 Sundance breakout hit THE PUFFY CHAIR, which went on to win the Audience Award at SXSW 2005 and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. It was released theatrically by Roadside Attractions and Netflix in 2006 and is now available on DVD and Showtime. BAGHEAD, their next feature film, was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics at Sundance 2008. Their first studio film CYRUS, was released by Fox Searchlight in 2010. As an actor, Mark co-starred in THE PUFFY CHAIR, Joe Swanberg's HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (IFC Films), HUMPDAY (Magnolia) and GREENBERG (Focus) and will next appear in Lawrence Kasdan's upcoming film DARLING COMPANION as well as Lynn Shelton's latest opposite Rosemarie Dewitt and Emily Blunt.

Bret Loehr (Oliver)

At the young age of 17, Bret Loehr has established an impressive list of credits to his name. He starred opposite John Cusack in the Columbia Pictures feature IDENTITY, and most recently appeared with Sean Patrick Flannery in the fantasy VERITAS, PRINCE OF TRUTH as well as the Chuck Norris television movie WALKER, TEXAS RANGER: TRIAL BY FIRE. In addition to his film roles, Bret also starred in the Fox series "Cracking Up" as the youngest son of eccentric parents played by Molly Shannon and Christopher McDonald. Further television credits include recurring roles on "Everwood," "American Dreams," "Ally Mcbeal" and "General Hospital" and guest starring roles on "ER," "Without A Trace" and "Medium" among others. Bret can next be seen in the thriller 9 LIVES OF MARA.

Carr Thompson (Jake)

Carr Thompson is currently an Honor Student and budding filmmaker at UCLA who was initially discovered at an international talent competition at the age of 12. He won numerous awards, finished in the Top 5 Best Child Actors category, and piqued the interest of talent agents across the country. Soon after he moved to Los Angeles with his parents and sister, also an actress, signed with a renowned agency and began enjoying a professional acting career.

In addition to his lead role as "Jake" in TRUE ADOLESCENTS, Carr can be seen this winter co-starring alongside Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker in the pilot episode of CBS' spinoff series "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior." He can also be seen as the lead character "Mark" in the soon-to-be-released thriller film REACH also starring David Dorfman and Edward Furlong. Carr's other acting credits include the lead role of Arthur in the 2006 CG-animated Lionsgate film ARTHUR'S MISSING PAL, the role of "Brian" in DAY SEVENTY-THREE WITH SARAH starring Elle Fanning, narrator of Disney's "Check This Kid Out" as well as principal roles in national commercials for Six Flags, Payless Shoes, Microsoft XBox, AT&T, Subway, Mountain Dew, MGA Toys, Pokemon video game and the Nintendo Wii Fit product launch campaign. Recently, Carr has also enjoyed working on the other side of the camera as 2nd Assistant Director on the feature film ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, as Director of Photography, Editor, and a writer on the film "Tied" which was nominated for Best Drama at the UCLA Campus Movie Fest; and as a writer as well as lead actor on the film "Keaton" which won 2nd place in film competition at the Student Television Network Convention in 2010.

In addition to TV and film work, Carr enjoys performing on stage and has played Tibalt in ROMEO AND JULIET as well as the leading role of Hamlet in HAMLET for which he won the first place award at Los Angeles' DTASC Shakespeare Festival.

Carr was an Advanced Placement Honor Graduate of West Ranch High School in Valencia, CA where he was a member of the News and Filmmaking Team. Prior to attending West Ranch, Carr was an Honor Graduate of Millikan Performing Arts School in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Carr began attending UCLA in 2010 where he is in the Honors Program, an anchor for UCLA resTV news, appears on the UCLA TV show "Bachelor of Spy" as lead character Brett Western, is a member of the UCLA Film and Photography Society and the UCLA Video Production Committee. Carr is also an avid guitar player, poker player, songwriter, and filmmaker. He recently completed his first screenplay. Carr is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.

Melissa Leo (Sharon)

Melissa Leo has won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, the Broadcast Film Critics Award, the New York Film Critics Circle Award, and 11 Critic's Group awards for Best Supporting Actress for her role in THE FIGHTER. She has also been nominated for a SAG Award.

She received Oscar® and SAG nominations for her starring role in "Frozen River," for which she won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and a Spotlight Award from the National Board of Review among countless other accolades for her performance which received universal critical acclaim.

Leo shared a Best Ensemble acting award from the Phoenix Film Critics Society for her outstanding work in "21 Grams" opposite Benicio del Toro and Sean Penn. Her most recent films include "Conviction," opposite Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell and "Welcome to the Rileys" opposite James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart. Other notable film work includes "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" in which she starred opposite Dwight Yoakam and Tommy Lee Jones, and "Hide and Seek" in which she starred opposite Robert DeNiro.

Leo can be seen in the upcoming films "Red State" written and directed by Kevin Smith which will premiere at Sundance and "Seven Days in Utopia" opposite Robert Duvall and in "Mildred Pierce" the HBO miniseries directed by Todd Haynes in which Melissa stars opposite Kate Winslett. Leo's television credits include the current HBO series "Treme" from executive producer David Simon, and she is known for her groundbreaking portrayal of Detective Kay Howard on "Homicide: Life on the Streets."

Leo studied Drama at Mount View Theatre School in London, England and later at the SUNY Purchase Acting Program.