Actor-turned-director Coley Sohn aspires to join the ranks of indie comedy names such as Alexander Payne and Jason Reitman. Her entry to SBIFF, a dark coming-of-age comedy, follows a formerly homeschooled young adult named Bethany Pruitt (Ashley Rickards) as she breaks away from her overbearing mother and realizes her true ambition to go to fashion design school.
Sohn recently answered a few of my questions.
What inspired you to write Sassy Pants?
It’s based on a short film that I made a few years ago that premiered in Sundance in 2009. When I sat down after to work on another feature, these characters from Boutonniere kept calling back and there was a feature that kept calling out.
Why did the name of the film change from Boutonniere to Sassy Pants?
Boutonniere was a 10-minute short about a mom pushing her daughter to go to a prom she doesn’t want to go to.
The first 10 minutes of the feature are almost identical to the short. We thought that in the feature, it almost seemed ridiculous to make it a prom, so we changed it to a home-school graduation. Her mom calls her “little miss sassy pants,” which is ironic because she’s anything but.
Why did you cast Ashley Rickards as the main character?
We had an amazing casting director and she knew Ashley well, and one of our producers worked with Ashley on a film called Fly Away, where Ashley played an autistic girl. We were lucky to have her and she was incredibly talented. Any role that she plays, she completely transforms herself. I’ve seen her do really over-the-top completely superficial, completely vapid characters. I think she’s a huge talent; she’s going to explode.
After starting out in improv and acting, what led you to eventually become a director?
I acted as a kid and I actually moved out to L.A. to act. It was always enough to get me going, and I never thought there would be anything to pull me away from it. I had a friend who went through AFI’s women’s directors program, and I applied with Boutonniere and did not get in, but my friends encouraged me to make the short film anyway. It ended up being a fantastic thing. Directing is such a good fit for me. I’ve come to have no urge to act or get in front of the camera anymore.
The improv is actually a really great thing for me on the set. I’m a big believer in things happening as they should, and improv really plays into that, so it’s a really great thing for me to come into directing with.
Can you tell me about your next project?
The working title right is Zodie and Cheryl Get Hitched. It’s similar tone to Sassy Pants, kind of quirky dark ironic. Its about two gay women who have been together for a long time, and through a series of events they decide to tie the knot and the ship kind of hits the sand.
Who are your biggest filmmaking influences?
I love Alexander Payne, I love Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson. I love directors that seem to go to small, subtle nuances. I love Jason Reitman. I think I’m darker than I ever thought too…I think I’m more warped that I realize.
Is there anything else you would want readers to know about Sassy Pants?
When we were writing the script and developing it, we were talking about how amazing it would be for Haley Joel Osment to play the part. And when our casting director played a tape of him auditioning to play another gay role, I thought “oh my god”. It was just amazing. We had discussed him so early on, and then it came to fruition and he ended up playing the part, so that was really fun.
Sassy Pants screens on Saturday, January 28, 4:40 p.m., at Metro 4, and again on Tuesday, January 31, 8 a.m. at the Lobero and Saturday, February 4, 7 p.m., at Metro 4.