The career of “Glee” star Chris Colfer has been electrifying since he first broke through into the pop consciousness in 2008, thanks to his multitude of talents. He sings, he acts, he dances – and now he writes and produces.
Building off of a story notion he first had while still an unknown high school student, Colfer makes his behind-the-scenes debut as the screenwriter/producer/star of the indie film “Struck By Lightning” (in theaters Friday Jan 11 and available On Demand). Colfer reveals the story behind his storytelling roots.
How were you so inspired at 16 to write a script?
I didn’t finish it when I was 16 – I just came up with the idea. I think I just had a lot of frustrations in high school and being young and peers and teachers and I thought maybe constructively vent all of that frustration into something constructive like a screenplay.
This movie isn’t autobiographical, but it does have some similarities to your high school experiences.
It is based on experiences – like, I was president of the writer’s club and I had a horrible homecoming float experience, things like that. I really hated having to convince people to submit submissions for the literary magazine, so it all came from a true place.
How did you come up with the concept for the parents – Allison Janney and Dermot Mulroney’s characters?
The mom was actually based on this mother I saw at Legoland when I was younger. I was fascinated by this woman because she was walking around with her two kids with sunglasses and a bath robe on. I thought ‘Wow I’ve got to use that for something one day!,’ so she’s kinda based on that. I also wanted her to be completely be the opposite of [my character] Carson. Where Carson was stuck in the future, she was stuck in the past. I wanted them to have that clash of different mindsets. Then the dad being the selfish guy not realizing how many people he’s hurting by his mistakes was the perfect counterpart. He was so unnerving. To have people like that in the world that just don’t realize how much harm they’re causing. It’s crazy.
Was it challenging for you to get an indie film like this made?
Very challenging, especially when it doesn’t follow the format that the genre it is a part of follows. I still feel like if we had gone the more studio route with this film and we had just sold it and gave up all of my control and attachment to it, it would be a story about Carson Phillips and how he lost his virginity and I would not be in the movie.
How difficult was it to write the screenplay, star in the film and serve as executive producer?
It was very difficult because I’m so bossy anyway! It didn’t really matter. I wasn’t overly bossy, I was just very hands on, but I think they appreciated it.
What does the title of the film mean to you?
It has a deeper meaning for the character. He says that whenever he comes up with an idea to write about something or he realizes something for the first time, it’s like lightening hits him or like electricity goes through his body and tries to be expressed or escaped. I think that’s the deeper meaning behind the title.
You've said that the one thing you really want audiences to get out of the movie is that they realize they can create their own journey. Can you elaborate on that?
One thing that he says in the book is you can’t pick where you’re from, but you can pick where you’re going. I can’t tell you how many kids I have met across the country that just feel stuck because they don’t feel like their goals or their dreams or themselves are good enough to get that train ticket out of where they are.
You’ve had a lot of bad experiences when you were younger with bullies, so how did you turn those negative experiences into something positive and become who you are today?
I do remember making a conscious choice when I was younger that I was going to filter them into something good rather than bad. I had enough bad examples around me of kids becoming these horrible monsters because they had been through horrible times. So I do remember making a choice like ‘No – I’m going to remain as pure as I can.’ I wish I had a formula of how I did it. I don’t think I would have had drive and focus like I do if I hadn’t gone through those things.
Let’s talk about 'Glee' - a season in which you're working alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Whoopi Goldberg. What has it been like working with them?
It’s been amazing because those two have been movie stars my entire life. The minute I was born I knew who they were. Whoppi Goldberg especially – she was almost like my childhood hero growing up. She was in every movie that I love, like ‘Corrina Corrina’ and the ‘Sister Act’ movies, and I used to pretend I was in movies with her when I was little. Getting to work with her was just incredible and same thing with Sarah Jessica. She’s incredible and exactly like you’d expect. She is so sweet and humble and down-to-earth and like ‘How can I help you?’ I’m like ‘You’re Sarah Jessica Parker! You don’t need to help me. I’m good! Can I get you a coffee or something?’