The Miseducation of Cameron Post (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
Who: Desiree Akhavan, director
Logline: 1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel.
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: we shot the most fun, carefree moment of reverie in tears. There’s a scene where Chloe’s character jumps onto a table and sings 4 Non Blonde’s “What’s Up” with a potato masher as a microphone and we filmed it the day after the 2016 elections. We paused to watch the concession speech. It was a depth of sadness you don’t usually share with anyone unless you also share blood or body fluids. I was grateful to be mourning while doing a job I love with people I love.
An influence or reference on this film was: Todd Haynes’ Safe. I watched it late in the writing process and it inspired two new scenes. I copied a shot from it, which I hope is interpreted as a respectful nod of appreciation and not blatant theft.
The most expensive thing in our budget was: the main location for the gay conversion therapy centre, a German resort where German polka blasts on speakers throughout the premises all day, and the design hasn’t been touched since 1974. The crew and cast lived there during production. Nothing makes me happier than not having to commute, and it was also such a luxury to know your location inside and out. As well as your crew. We had many dance parties and camp fires. I feel a deep love for Riedlbauer’s Resort in Round Top, NY and was sad to leave it.
A darling I had to kill along the way was: shooting in Montana. It became increasingly clear that the money it would cost to shoot there meant we’d have to take huge hits elsewhere. I knew we’d be able to afford a better film in New York. It wouldn’t be as faithful to the book, which was set in Montana, but we’d have more time/money/control. Sometimes directing is just choosing which shitty compromise works best.
The 34th Sundance Film Festival runs January 18-28, 2018 in Park City, Utah.This article appears in MovieMaker’s 25th Anniversary Winter 2018 issue. Photographs in featured image courtesy of Sundance Institute.