Jason Orley’s first narrative short film took place at his cousin’s bar mitzvah. It only seems fitting that his directorial debut had a similar coming-of-age theme.
The film, “Big Time Adolescence,” follows a teenager coming of age under the guidance of an aimless college dropout (played by Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson), who happens to be his best friend.
And it just premiered to positive reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
“I just wanted to throw up the entire time until they showed the movie because I was so anxious,” said Orley, an Andover High School graduate. “It played in front of an audience of like 1,500 people…when you’re in a theater that size hearing the laughter, it was pretty special.”
Especially considering Orley had made peace that the film – his first screenplay, written in 2013 – would never be made. Now it's in the middle of negotiations to lock a deal and distribute.
Originally, Orley hoped the screenplay – which started as a collection of short stories about growing up with 2 older brothers in Michigan – would lead to writing jobs and being signed to an agency, which it did. But then it made The Black List, a yearly round-up of Hollywood’s best scripts that didn’t get made that year. Then came the turmoil of the script getting optioned, only to end in something falling through. This happened a few times before a company found it last year via The Black List and wanted to make it.
“Every step was this weird surprise…getting a deal to direct it, them saying yes to Pete,” Orley said.
Once on set Orley – who has years of experience working with directors in film and TV – was afraid he wouldn’t have any idea what he was doing. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
“All of a sudden I got there and it was like I was speaking a language I didn’t know I learned,” he said.
During filming, Orley said the story became less about his own life and more an amalgamation of everyone else's, making it a more universal story. Orley chuckled that if you squint really hard you can see his life in the film.
Speaking of his life, his mom and dad were next to him at the premiere. Orley said having them, former teachers and directors he’s worked with watch it was far more nerve-wracking than showing it to total strangers.
“For them to finally see something I’ve written get made and see it on the big screen was very exciting and emotional for all of us,” he said. “I think they were very proud. I hope they were.”
This was the culmination of everything they had watched Orley create since high school. Growing up he got what he described as a full film school education, thanks to a program at Lahser High School, where students from Andover could learn about editing and film in their TV studio.
That program helped him get into New York University’s Summer High School Program. After high school he attended film school. Then he went off to Los Angeles, where he currently resides.
Considering he’s now directed and written a screenplay – what’s next for Orley? Currently, he’s reading scripts, writing, and spending time with his wife and newborn. But where does he hope his career goes from here?
“I’ll say this out loud so you can remind me later. I want to keep making things that are original and in this kind of funny, heartfelt tone,” he said.