Everything I needed to know, I learned from ‘Sex Ed’
by Isaac Feder
It was 2007, I recently finished AFI, and everyone knew I was looking to collaborate with a writer. I was working as head of development for a production company, and meeting with writers on the weekends to develop a project to direct.
I was set up on a creative blind date with Bill Kennedy, who had also grown up in Chicago, just finished Duke, won a big fancy writing award there, and was heading to L.A. I loved his thesis, a novella about rum-runners, and we met for coffee. I pitched him a few kernels for scripts, and Billy immediately took to a story of a cousin of mine who had never done well with the ladies in high school or college, but was now teaching English abroad in Japan and was writing me reports of his newfound romantic success as an expat.
The deal was Billy was the writer and I would be the director, and we would work together to tell the story which from that kernel came to be Sex Ed. We originally set the script in Chicago, as we both were excited to tell a story about the unique cultural geography of our hometown, but above all else, Sex Ed was going to be a comedy about being in your twenties and becoming a man – which Bill and I were both living first-hand.
We stuck together: getting Sex Ed made has been the challenge of my professional career, but through it all – the missteps, the rejection – Billy and I maintained the mantra, “we will make a film.” It is now 2014 – and we did.
There were times companies liked the script but wanted a more experienced director. We never wavered on that, and I’m thankful to Billy for his commitment.
In 2010, when financing first appeared imminent, I met Cassandra Kulukundis, a generous casting director, who believed in our script, and reached out to actors on behalf of the film. Her name meant something if she called an agent. We talked about a lot of actors, and she contacted Haley Joel Osment, who we thought would be the perfect Eddie. Haley and I had coffee in July of 2010. I made him a mix CD, and by that afternoon, he was Eddie Cole.
We didn’t get the actual green light to make the movie for another three years, which came from Florida-based producer Dori Sperko. My wife, actor Abbe Meryl Feder, introduced me to our first financier, Monika Casey, and to Retta, who Billy wrote a part for. Thankfully, Haley stayed with the project, and when we finally did get financed, we hired Amber Horn and Danielle Aufiero, our fantastic casting directors. They set dozens of meetings, and led an exhaustive search for our teenage cast. We ultimately cast a wonderful group of actors, including Matt Walsh, Lamorne Morris, Abby Elliott, Laura Harring, Chris Williams, and Glen Powell… and we were a go.
When it came time to shoot, we went to Tampa. The set we created was fun and we had laughs everyday. It was a tight schedule and a challenging shoot: principal photography lasted 19 days – but every day we came to work, finished on time, on budget, and we all felt like we were making something very special.
I came back to L.A. to edit with my longtime collaborator from AFI, Christopher Gay – and we cut a film that honored our original vision, including a killer soundtrack that I especially love.
Making Sex Ed has been the greatest collaboration of my life. Having the good fortune to work with friends and family is especially meaningful: my wife, Billy, Monika, Chris, Brian Burgoyne (our cinematographer), Theresa Guleserian (our production designer), Jennifer Glynn (our co-producer), and my cousin and producer, Stephen Feder, who shares my lifelong dream of making movies. They stuck with me for many years, and were by my side when I finally got my shot to direct a feature. I am grateful for my old friends, and the many new ones I met along the way who came together to make Sex Ed. All I want to do now is go again. We plan to keep making more.Abbe Meryl Feder, AFI, Bill Kennedy, Cassandra Kulukundis, Christopher Gay, Film collaboration, Filmmaking, Friendship, Haley Joel Osment, Hollywood, Isaac Feder, Retta, Stephen Feder