Hank Azaria-produced 'Class' explores the cultlike aspects of acting school
August 24, 2021
It’s no small feat to have your short film produced by Hank Azaria, but when one watches Class it’s evident why the actor took on the project. The film is a wild look at one cultlike acting class that will likely have lasting effects on all the students’ lives. As filmmakers Ash McNair and Enzo Cellucci prepare to finish their festival run at DANCES WITH FILMS, they muse on where the short is going and their future ventures.
The veteran actors themselves were influenced by the myriad experiences in acting classes.
"I’ve done a lot of method classes and there’s several teachers who are former actors and studio people, and it was kind of taken off of that method style of teaching acting ... the pool noodle thing, that’s something that happened not to me but someone else in the class," Cellucci said.
The pool noodle scene in the film is quite memorable and much too good to give away here, but to say there is some noodle abuse going on is an understatement. Those who are curious should watch out for the film at the festival and keep an eye on Omeleto, where the film will soon premiere.
McNair continues, saying the inspiration came easily.
"You get that sort of parental complex going on where you want their approval, and we wanted to make a short about that. It’s definitely all based off of real stuff."
The short balances a fun heightened comedic tone with an undertone of sinister suspense. McNair said that balance came with grounding the absurdity in uncomfortable reality.
"I think we balance it by writing it really heightened and absurdist, and then when we are filming it we ground it as much as possible," Cellucci said.
"In the post process when we do our soundtrack and editing, that's where the thriller elements come in. A lot of people when they read the script they don’t see that part until the finished product."
McNair loved the odd setting for the tone: "Acting class is no typical place for a thriller or horror setting, but as we’ve experienced it, it can be quite horrific."
Of course, to create a horrific acting class one needs a menacing and memorable teacher. In Class, that comes from lead David Krumholtz. Krumholtz is a bit reminiscent of Ricky Gervais in his most give-no-effs roles; always looking calm, cool and collected from his place of leadership, even if the leadership role in the class is undeserved.
"He kinda wanted to take part and explore. We were allowing the actors to bring a lot of freedom to their characters, and David doesn't get to play this type of role in traditional Hollywood settings," Cellucci said, noting the producing pair were grateful to have their longtime friend involved.
McNair said that the pair balanced Krumholtz’s overtly masculine, cult-leader style energy by often giving women power in the class. Cellucci also noted the symbolism as the female actors in class take on Macbeth: "There’s a lot of Lilith imagery, so we tried to take that siren-y type of vibe — sex appeal is something that is usually exploited in acting classes — and tried to flip it."
Both say that making the short was extremely therapeutic, and McNair called it a love and hate letter to the actor’s process.
"We spent over a decade as actors and struggling for auditions and classes and exposing that was so therapeutic," he said.
Cellucci continued: "Class can be this very enclosed world. It can become everything for the students."
McNair riffed: "There is a level of self-importance you can get from class, and we wanted to break that down. Also; ultimately, acting is a ridiculous profession, and it was fun to examine that ridiculousness."
Class has its West Coast premiere at DANCES WITH FILMS on September 3rd at 4:30pm PT and goes live on Omeleto the week of Sept. 20.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/