Cameras roll on the ninth feature film from American High in the Syracuse region.
The Liverpool, NY-based production company began filming a new teen sex comedy called “Sex Appeal” on Wednesday. Production is expected to resume in the first week of April and includes locations such as the former AV Zogg Middle School (now Syracuse Studios) in Liverpool.
Talia Osteen, whose credits include the HBO documentary “Blindsided” and the award-winning short film “The Shabbos Goy,” will direct the film for streaming service Hulu based on a script by Tate Hanyok.
According to the deadline, Mika Abdalla and Jake Short will lead the cast. Abdalla is best known for playing McKeyla McAlister on Netflix’s “Project MC2”. He recently appeared in “SWAT”. The credits include the Disney series “ANT Farm” and “Lab Rats: Elite Force” as well as Hulu’s “All Night”.
Here is the official synopsis of “Sex Appeal”:
“Avery Hansen-White doesn’t do things that they’re not very good at. When her long-distance friend suggests at the upcoming STEM (‘Nerd Prom’) conference that she would like to have sex, she sets about mastering sex by employing her oldest friend, Larson, as a test subject. Avery’s study leads to the realization that sex and love are more than mechanics and that it is time for them to harmonize head with heart. “
In a telephone interview with syracuse.com | The Post-Standard, Osteen, said she was excited to create a “sex positive” teen comedy from a female perspective.
“It’s a fun, poignant, irreverent, and very timely script with a wonderful cast that we’ve put together,” said Osteen.
American High built its brand on teen comedies in school and revitalized a genre that has been largely inactive since the John Hughes / Brat Pack era. Recent titles include Pete Davidson’s Big Time Adolescence, the road trip dramedy The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, and the Garelick-directed Vince Vaughn comedy The Binge.
Osteen says all viewers, including parents, will be able to enjoy the new movie, but she particularly hopes it will be associated with teens and young adults.
“I want to make sure this film reflects and validates their experiences and shows the multitude of experiences and perspectives related to sex and love and teenagers. And talk about it in a way that is neither shameful nor judgmental to people … wherever they are in their journey, ”she said. “It’s fun, it’s sexually positive and it’s ultimately a movie about vulnerability and learning how to let go of your guard and the ups and downs of love and relationships and connections and life and how scary it can be.”
Osteen was selected for the film by American high school founder Jeremy Garelick after seeing her short film “The Shabbos Goy” starring Milana Vayntrub (known as AT&T spokeswoman Lily in television commercials) and by Paul Fieg, the director by Bridesmaids. The 2019 release won Best Short Film at Florida Film Festival and Best Narrative Short Film at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
“I’m very grateful to American High and Jeremy Garelick,” said Osteen, “and Paul Fieg and his incubator program, which gave me a platform to show what I can do.” As an industry, it’s really important to create opportunities to hear a variety of voices that we can’t see and hear as often as a movie, and without them I wouldn’t be here. “
Osteen has been in the Syracuse area for about a month but has not yet been able to make his way to local restaurants or stores due to Covid restrictions and a hectic preproduction schedule. However, she was recently allowed to take her 4-year-old son for the first time (“only on Rabbit Hill”) to ski on Toggenburg Mountain in central New York.
The USC graduate giggled when asked about the cold weather. She lived in New York City for 5 years, but spent most of her life in warmer climates, growing up in Florida and currently residing in California. Sometimes it snows in Syracuse until Mother’s Day which occasionally causes productions to mess up, but a warm spring is expected to begin this month in CNY.
Osteen, who also works as a composer and appears in the folk rock band The Wellspring, said while she could contribute to the film’s original score, it depends on “how much time I have”.
A release date for “Sex Appeal” has not been announced.
The project is American High’s ninth film in just over three years. The company released six of these last year – The Binge, Holly Slept Over, Banana Split, Big Time Adolescence, Looks That Kill, and The Ultimate Playlist of Noise. A seventh film, Natalie Morales-directed comedy Plan B, will be released on Hulu this spring, and an eighth, Sid Is Dead, is in post-production.
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The Syracuse production company is looking for suggestions for a pilot episode