Tribeca Exclusive: Chris Colfer on Struck By Lightning & More!

ON is thrilled to have gotten the able aid of Jeremy Wein, host of This My Show, to help us cover this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, having met him when he won our Tribeca Film Festival contest last year.

Jeremy’s coverage begins with an exclusive interview with “Glee” star Chris Colfer who came to Tribeca with his first movie based on his own screenplay, a high school comedy called Struck By Lightning. Jeremy (who is the same age as Colfer!) got him to talk about that and upcoming episodes of “Glee,” his children’s book and even the next movie he’s writing!


Struck By Lightning tells the story of Carson Phillips (Colfer), a young man, who after being struck by lightning and killed, recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine. The dark comedy, which also stars Allison Janney (Juno), Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”), Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids), Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Dermot Mulroney (“New Girl”), recently had its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. sat down with Chris to talk about the movie, the future of “Glee,” his next film project and being named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential people. Congrats on a great premiere I heard it went really well. It’s very deserved; the movie is fantastic.
Chris Colfer:
Thank you!

CS: Can you talk about what the genesis of the film was? I know it started as a project for your speech and debate club.
I’d always known that I’d wanted to screenwrite from a very early age, since I knew what it was I’ve wanted to do, and I started this project when I was 16 (laughs) – I’m talking like it was official. It really started as like a diary almost of sorts as a way to vent my daily frustrations at public high school. I was in speech and debate and I used this story as an OPP which is a “original prose and poetry,” which is an event in the speech & debate world. So I performed all the characters as a little mini one-man show, and then I knew I always wanted to try to turn it into a movie if I ever had the chance and then the success of “Glee” kind of came, and I was thinking, “Wow I could possibly have a platform to actually make this happen” and I did.

CS: Are all the characters then somewhat loosely based on real people that you knew in high school?
Yes, there are some that are dead-on certain people that I knew in high school, like Malerie (Rebel Wilson’s character) was my best friend growing up in high school and she actually got to be in the movie, the real Malerie, actually, but a lot of the people are just loosely based on collectively a lot of people.

CS: In what ways did you try to portray high school differently in “Struck By Lightning” than it is portrayed on “Glee”?
You know I really never thought about making it a different portrayal. One thing I love about “Glee” and “Struck By Lighting” is that I feel they are very accurate portrayals of high school. I really enjoy the fact that in the movie I could use bad words. That was a great element, because there is so much bad language in high school. It was great to actually use the real language instead of having them say “This is bull.” We can say, “This is bullsh*t,” the way it’s really supposed to be said.

CS: What’s awesome is that this is your first feature you worked on and wrote and it’s just populated by an amazing cast of people. Allison Janney, Angela Kinsey, Sarah Hyland, even Ken Marino, which as a comedy nerd made me really happy. What was it like to you that this was the first big thing you worked on, and that you were just surrounded by amazing actors and actresses everyday.
I was so spoiled. I mean I’ve seen the movie a hundred times and every time Christina Hendricks comes on the screen, I’m like “Oh my God! I still can’t believe she’s in my movie!” I still can’t believe that we got Polly (Bergen) and Allison (Janney) and I mean Polly she is a living, breathing legend. I would just sit on set and for hours just listen to her tell the stories that she has of Hollywood from back in the day. I mean it’s like crazy. And Dermot (Mulroney) and Rebel (Wilson), I mean Rebel was a miracle. She got cast the night before she started filming, “The Night,” I mean thats really cutting it close. But we really lucked out.

CS: I especially want to say Allison Janney, without getting into details, there is one scene she is in towards the end that just almost had me in tears, its just an amazing performance.
Oh God, she is amazing, and it’s crazy to me hat she’s in the movie because when I was writing the character of Sheryl she was the only actress I ever had in my head for that part.

CS: What’s your favorite movie that she has been in?
Probably “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” I mean, she’s amazing in that.

CS: I would say thats a pretty good choice. So I was curious. You’re 21, only a couple of months older than I am, and TIME magazine names you one of the hundred most influential people in the world. Is that just kind of mind-blowing and surreal to be this young and have this huge magazine say this?
It’s crazy, right? Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure, it’s a lot of pressure to give a young guy. It’s like, “Oh and now I have to live up to this. Why can’t I just be a college student? I have to be inspirational now.” No it was a complete honor, but God, it’s a lot of pressure… and they never said I was a good influence.

CS: That’s a good point. I think you’re a good influence.
Well, thank you.

CS: The last couple of episodes of this season of “Glee” are about to air. Can you let us know what we can look forward to?
Well, this week we have our big Whitney Houston episode for which I recorded the song “I Have Nothing” and it was the scariest song I have ever had to tackle, because it was so hard to sing so many riffs and runs and the song is all over the place and I did it in Whitney’s original key which is crazy. It was really nice to honor her because I’m a hugh Whitney fan. We also have a big NYADA (New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts) episode coming up where Rachel and Kurt audition for Whoopi Goldberg who is playing the NYADA recruiter and then we have our nationals episode and our graduation episode.

CS: It’s been talked about that next season, the seniors that are graduating this year are going to come back and that it’s going to be done in a revolutionary way. Do you already have kind of an idea of what that is or are you still kind of in the dark?
Every time I think I know what it is, it seems like it changes, but at the time, I thought it was a great idea and I was really excited about it. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen. I honestly don’t, I think its a great idea but I’m not sure how they’re going to do it, if that makes any sense.

CS: Yeah like it sounds good in concept but how is it going to be executed?

CS: On top of everything else, you also have a young adult book or I guess a children’s book coming out?
Yeah it’s a children’s book, but I hate to use that phrase because then people always think it’s like a picture book. It’s a children’s novel, but I have friends that are my age that have read it and they love it and yell at me to write the next one.

CS: And it’s called “The Land of Stories” and comes out July 17th right?

CS: Could you talk about this other screenplay you are currently working on writing?
Sure. One of my biggest pet peeves is people saying, “I hear you’re working on or writing a project when it’s written. When it’s finished I’m like, ‘oh no you have to know its finished.’ Probably because when I finish something it’s ike a miracle, it’s like I finished something! But yeah it’s definitely a different setting for me, because it takes place in an asylum in the 1930’s.

CS: Wow, that’s a total 180 from this movie. That got me really excited, and I’m interested to see what that looks like. Is it like a noir kind of film?
It’s very, I don’t know, I can never really compare it to something. It’s kind of like when people ask me is it a horror movie? I’m like, it’s more like the events after a horror movie. Like if someone had really gone through a situation like characters do in horror movies, like the mental effect that it would have on them and how they would carry it with them. Like even though their safe now, the situation never died.

CS: Like it starts with them in the rubber room six months after the events?
Exactly, like it’s with them forever. Like they’re traumatized forever.

CS: So what else are you working on right now?
“Land of Stories Two,” the title of which I’ll announce later. Hopefully people will care, and the next movie and that’s pretty much officially everything I’m working on.

CS: Aren’t you working on a project for Disney as well?
Yeah, that’s still up in the air. Disney originally asked me to adapt it into a screenplay, which I did and they bought it, then they asked me to adapt the screenplay into a television pilot which I did and we kind of went back and forth a few times. I created three or four different versions of the pilot with different variations of the same story, and now they want me to adapt it back to a screenplay, so we’ll see. That’s up in the air.

CS: Well, I’m knocking on wood that it all goes through and is successful.
Thank You.

CS: Is there anything else you want to say to the readers of the site?
Oh, gosh. I hope I don’t annoy you. That’s probably my biggest fear. Please don’t find me annoying. I know I annoy the crap out of myself and I hope you don’t find me annoying.

CS: Thank you so much for sitting down and talking with me.
Of course. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

Struck By Lightning is playing a couple more times throughout this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and will be released in theaters this fall.